Cops, Protesters Clash As Occupy Oakland Activists Up The Ante - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Cops, Protesters Clash As Occupy Oakland Activists Up The Ante

Photo courtesy MSNBC Photo courtesy MSNBC

OAKLAND, Calif. - Police in riot gear clashed with protesters in Oakland in the early morning hours on Thursday, firing tear gas to disperse demonstrators lingering in the streets after a day of mostly peaceful rallies against economic inequality and police brutality.

The clash and standoff came only hours after protesters shut down the Port of Oakland late Wednesday.

The confrontation, which erupted after midnight, appeared aimed at preventing the protesters from expanding their foothold in the streets around a public plaza that has become a hub for demonstrations in the northern California city.

More than 200 officers, some of them ferried in aboard buses, lined up shoulder to shoulder and donned gas masks, then declared the crowd to be an unlawful assembly and fired volleys of tear gas as protesters turned and ran.

At about the same time many of the street lights in the area suddenly went dark, but it was not clear whether they were turned off or were knocked out by a power disruption.

The nearly 5-hour protest at the port, the nation's fifth-busiest shipping port, was intended to highlight a daylong "general strike" in the city, which prompted solidarity rallies in New York, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation. Some had marched from the city's downtown, while others had been bused to the port.

The protests, which drew some 5,000 activists at their peak, fell short of paralyzing the northern California city that was catapulted to the forefront of national anti-Wall Street protests after a former Marine was badly wounded during a march and rally last week.

The crowd disrupted port operations by overwhelming the area with people and blocking exits with chain-link fencing and illegally parked vehicles. The demonstrators also erected fences to block main streets to the port. No trucks were allowed into or out of the area.

Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said evening operations had been "effectively shut down."

Later port officials released a statement saying that maritime activity would be cancelled indefinitely, but they hoped to resume the work day Thursday.

"Our hope is that the work day can resume tomorrow and that Port workers will be allowed to get to their jobs without incident," the statement read. "Continued missed shifts represent economic hardship for maritime workers, truckers, and their families, as well as lost jobs and lost tax revenue for our region."

Protesters, who streamed across a freeway overpass to gather in front of the port gates late Wednesday, stood atop tractor-trailers stopped in the middle of the street.

Others climbed onto scaffolding over railroad tracks as a band played a version of the Led Zeppelin song "Whole Lotta Love," using amplifiers powered by stationary bike generators.

"The reason I'm here is, I'm sick and tired of trying to figure out where I should put my vote between the lesser of two evils," student Sarah Daniel, 28, said at the port.

The atmosphere turned tense after a protester was apparently struck by a car in downtown Oakland, and incorrect reports spread that the person had died. Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan later said the pedestrian was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The Oakland protests became a rallying point for the far-flung movement last week when an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police in riot gear that included multiple volleys of tear gas, reports of "flash bang" grenades and rubber bullets.

Prior to marching on the port, protesters had blocked the downtown intersection of 14th street and Broadway, where the a former Marine turned peace activist Scott Olsen was wounded on the night of October 25.

Olsen, 24, suffered a serious head injury during protests last week and remains in an Oakland hospital in fair condition. Click here to read more from MSNBC

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