October 27, 2011. New York. At first, news began trickling in about large scale arrests of Occupy demonstrators in Sacramento, Chicago, Cincinnati and Tucson. Cleveland all but declared Martial Law and instituted a mandatory dusk to dawn curfew. Then more arrests in places like Dallas, Albuquerque and a half dozen other cities. By the time news arrived that someone attacked the Portland, Maine Occupy demonstrators with a bomb and Oakland authorities were using tear gas and rubber baton bullets against the protesters – it became apparent that the recent escalation in violence at Occupy Wall Street protests was no coincidence.
Police evict Occupy Oakland demonstrators using tear gas, rubber baton bullets and stun grenades. Image courtesy AddictingInfo.org
Why would previously peaceful protesters demonstrating in more than 50 US cities suddenly become violent on the same weekend and in almost every city in the nation? For an obviously peaceful movement like Occupy Wall Street, with no leadership and nobody in charge, there is no explanation. Instead, it appears the government has upped the ante at the Occupy protests. And they’ve done it simultaneously in almost every city from coast to coast.
Oakland is where the most serious confrontations have occurred. Yesterday, police used tear gas, rubber baton bullets and other semi-lethal weapons against the Occupy Oakland demonstrators. Their mission was to clear the protesters out of Frank Ogawa Plaza in a surprise assault during the predawn hours. By late afternoon, the Oakland Police had won and the Occupy protesters had been vanquished with 85 of their fellow protesters arrested.
Yesterday afternoon and into last night, more than 1,000 Occupy Oakland demonstrators returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza, their home base for the past two weeks, to take it back. Violence between police and protesters broke out and a handful of arrests were made. Oakland Police once again used tear gas to break up the march and according to Reuters, even a stun grenade. The police assault on the marchers culminated when a peaceful, two-time Iraqi war vet had his skull fractured by officers.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan attempted to justify the heavy-handed action by rattling off a laundry list of crimes and other problems the city said they believed were going on at the Plaza. Among them, according to the Mayor, were protesters’ refusal to allow medical staff to enter the Plaza, assaults and batteries, a rat problem, graffiti, litter, vandalism and even sexual assaults. Occupy Oakland has vowed to continue their fight to take back Frank Ogawa Plaza, peacefully.
During the predawn hours Sunday morning while Occupy Maine protesters slowly began stirring themselves up inside their camp in the city’s Lincoln Park, someone attacked them with a chemical bomb. It was only 4:00am when the apparently homemade bomb was lobbed into the crowd of Occupy demonstrators. Witnesses said they watched a silver sedan circle the area numerous times, yelling obscenities at the protesters each time. During the final pass, ‘BOOM’.
After the explosion, the area was filled with a thick cloud of smoke and an extremely foul odor. The bomb did little damage and injuries were minor such as hearing loss and sore throats from what was assumed to be a chemical agent from the smell and reaction. Members of Occupy Maine said they weren’t deterred, “We are willing to stay here until something happens and changes. So, a little bomb isn’t going to scare us away.”
The city of Cleveland has taken the harshest measures thus far – forcing a dusk to dawn curfew. On Friday night as the 10:00pm curfew was only minutes away and the Cleveland police force was ready to move against the Occupy Cleveland protesters, most of the demonstrators chose to abide by the order and make themselves scarce. Eleven vigilant individuals however, locked arms and stood their ground at Cleveland’s Public Square. They donned their holiday Santa hats and prepared to be arrested. “They make you look more sympathetic” the veteran demonstrator who purchased the hats remarked. She was also one of the arrested.
By Sunday, 50 members of Occupy Cleveland were left and only allowed to protest during the day. They decided to fight City Hall in court and challenge the unconstitutional curfew. Monday, the protesters were offered a compromise. They would be allowed to occupy the Public Square, but no sleeping or camping would be allowed. Occupy Cleveland refused.
Today, Occupy Cleveland announced they had won a restraining order against the city of Cleveland’s curfew. “24/7 occupation of the Public Square begins right now!” the group announced.
The mile high city may just be in the most precarious position of all the Occupy cities. Occupy Denver was just hit with the first major snow storm of the season. During the day, it was raining. As the sun went down, temperatures dropped below freezing Tuesday night. As a result, a small number of Occupy Denver protesters suffered hypothermia and were forced to seek medical attention at a nearby hospital.
As the remaining protesters hunkered down inside the Occupy stronghold of Lincoln Park, Denver Police arrived and added injury to insult. They ordered the Occupy Denver protesters to take down and get rid of all their tents and other protection from exposure to the elements. Initially refusing, a police spokesman assured the Occupy Denver leaders that they would be arrested for violating city ordinances for erecting the tents. The protesters reluctantly complied.
Within hours, Occupy Denver supporters released a YouTube video title, “People Will Die in the Cold”, detailing the anticipated results from the police taking away the demonstrators’ protection from the elements. “Some people will die this winter in this occupation if we don’t have shelter” the video warned, “People aren’t going to go someplace else. We’re going to go right here, because we’ve chosen to make a stand right here…And so you can make a stand with us.”At the same time, numerous requests went up on Occupy Denver’s Facebook page urging all supporters to send urgently needed items like carpet remnants, waterproof clothing, sleeping bags and blankets.
The city of Atlanta also launched an assault against the Occupy protesters. Tuesday night, the city launched police helicopters, which hovered over Atlanta’s downtown, shining high-powered spotlights down onto the Occupy protesters below. The demonstrators had been camped out in the downtown Atlanta area for more than two weeks. Atlanta officials joined other cities and sent in riot squads to clear out the peaceful protesters. With no warning, many protesters were slow to move or objected outright. In all, more than 50 arrests were made.
Not known for their love of Chicago protesters, members of the CPD were surprisingly courteous for the first few weeks. The Occupy protesters repeatedly returned the favor. When the police refused to allow the protesters to set up tents, chairs or other stationary objects, the demonstrators complied. As long as the protesters continued walking and moving, authorities said they wouldn’t stop them from marching continuously in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Two Saturdays ago however, the Occupy crowd in Chicago was estimated at 2,000 and the tiny intersection of Jackson and LaSalle in downtown Chicago couldn’t accommodate that many protesters. City officials decided to shut the Occupy Chicago protest down all together. Over 100 were arrested as they battled police for control of their home base. Fighting a losing battle, protesters were forced to move their headquarters to Grant Park, a gigantic park along the city’s lakefront.
This weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided to evict the tent city from Grant Park as well, leaving Occupy Chicago demonstrators nowhere to protest. 1,500 had marched Saturday evening with most returning to the Grant Park base. Minutes after midnight Saturday night, the Chicago Police moved in on the camp. During the confrontation, 130 were arrested. Witnesses insist that none of the 130 were violent or resisted. In fact, some described the scene as hundreds of protesters waited in line to be arrested and chanted, “Take me next”. After they were arrested, a new chant broke out, “We’ll be back”.
During the assault, one union official and two volunteer nurses were arrested and jailed. The nurses had set up a First Aid Station inside the park. In response, National Nurses United – the largest registered nurses union in the country – has called on its members to picket City Hall and join the demonstration in Chicago in protest. They’re also demanding the release and dropping of charges against all the protesters arrested Saturday night.
Occupy Tucson has been facing off with the Tucson Police Dept every night for 13 straight nights. While crackdowns rained onto Occupy protests throughout the nation this weekend, demonstrators in Tucson have been long used to the heavy-handed treatment. As an example, on Monday night, the police carried out their standard order – arrest all Occupy protesters they find. At Armory Park, 11 protesters were arrested. At the same time, 12 Occupy demonstrators were arrested at Veinte de Agosto Park.
Until now, Occupy Albuquerque protesters have been based on the property of the University of New Mexico. At the same time the nationwide crackdown was underway, the University revoked Occupy’s invitation to use their grounds. When the 10:00pm campus curfew arrived Tuesday night, UNM police and even New Mexico State Police, were present to remove the entire Occupy Albuquerque protest. With approximately 250 Occupy demonstrators there, 40 decided to sacrifice their freedom and allow themselves to be arrested in protest.
They took turns voluntarily and peacefully submitting themselves for arrest. Among them was an elderly woman, a number of UNM students and a former local media reporter. As 200 Occupy protesters stood by in support, the 40 were arrested by more than 50 officers armed in riot gear. When the last was cuffed and taken into custody, the remaining 200 demonstrators peacefully left the University grounds. The only incident occurred when one protester sat down in the middle of the street. After attempting to flee arrest, officers maced and arrested him.
Yesterday was the opening day of trials for Occupy Sacramento protesters. The remaining Occupy demonstrators took the opportunity to show their support for those on trial by marching to the Sacramento Superior Courthouse where they were being arraigned. Even though the State of California has declined to prosecute, the city of Sacramento is moving forward. While that was going on, 4 more Occupy Sacramento protesters were arrested for violating the 11:00pm curfew at Cesar Chavez Park – Occupy Sacramento’s home base. That brings the total to 79 arrests in 21 days.
Occupy Seattle announced they were moving their home base from City Hall Plaza to the grounds of Central Seattle Community College. After dozens of arrests of Occupy Seattle protesters over the past three weeks, organizers decided to move their base camp to a more welcoming and secure location. They admit, CSCC wasn’t aware of the decision and Occupy Seattle wasn’t invited. They were merely reaching out for help to a place they hoped would be sympathetic to their cause. College spokesmen had no comment after the announcement, but promised a comment Wednesday.
The move is planned to take place this Saturday with a protest march from City Hall to the College. After Saturday, Occupy Seattle hopes to use the school’s grounds for their tents, First Aid station and to sleep. During the day, the majority of the protesters will continue to demonstrate outside City Hall.
Almost two dozen Occupy Dallas protesters were arrested Monday night and accused of blocking the entrance of the downtown branch of JP Morgan Chase. Most of the 23 arrested had their first experience with handcuffs and jail in their young lives. And they say it was “totally worth it”.
Attempting to spotlight the demonstrators’ backgrounds, local Dallas media did thorough criminal background checks. What they found were young adults between 17 and 30, with most being 21 or 22 years old. Three of the arrested had minor run-ins with the law in the past. One 21 year old girl had a previous arrest for a small amount of marijuana, one had missed a traffic court appearance and the third had an unpaid traffic ticket.
The above cities aren’t the only frontlines in the battle between Occupy Wall Street and government officials this past week. In cities and towns too numerous to mention, Occupy demonstrations have risen up in solidarity with the original protesters in New York. Most, if not all, are incurring their share of wrath from local, state and federal authorities. Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Cyber Terror Cell Attacks Occupy Protesters’ for a glimpse of the war the mainstream media isn’t showing.
And with Winter fast approaching and the Occupy demonstrators vowing to tough it out in city after city, we at Whiteout Press truly hope both sides can at least work together to keep people from needlessly being hurt or killed. In the end, local authorities are trying to keep their public areas open and safe, while protesters merely want their right to demonstrate. Those are two American ideals that have managed to coexist, until now.