Occupy Oakland Protesters Warned To Clear Out Immediately

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Oakland police served anti-Wall Street protesters with written notice that they must disband their camp immediately Friday night.

Officers distributed fliers to Occupy Oakland protesters at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, where they have had an encampment for a month.

The memo warns protesters that the camp violates the law. The notice said the city and police support free speech and the right to assemble but that the camp itself is illegal.

Protesters are warned they will face arrest if they don’t remove all camping materials.

The warning comes in the wake of the fatal shooting of a man shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday at 14th Street and Broadway, near the encampment.

Also on Friday, both Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the Oakland police officers’ union called on activists to leave the plaza.

Quan announced her request in a brief statement to reporters at the Cathedral of Christ the Light Church Friday, where she participated in an interfaith thanksgiving prayer breakfast with religious and community leaders.

Meanwhile, the union that represents Oakland police officers released a letter Friday asking protesters to leave the plaza in front of City Hall so officers can concentrate on fighting crime in other parts of the city.

“We need to peacefully close the encampment at City Hall and we’re asking people to leave,” Quan said.

She said city officials will give the protesters another official notice and will announce details of that notice later Friday. “We’re asking them to leave now and peacefully,” Quan said.

The request by the Oakland Police Officers’ Association came in what it called “an open letter to Occupy Oakland.”

“On behalf of the 645 Oakland police officers we represent, this letter comes to you out of duty to protect the Oakland community and its citizens,” the union said.

The union told protesters, “We understand and sympathize with your message and “we respect your right to peaceful protest” but said “we are also sworn to protect the citizens of Oakland” and the city is now “in a state of emergency.”

The police union said its member officers “are the 99 percent struggling in Oakland neighborhoods every day to contain the 1 percent who rob, steal, rape and murder our law-abiding citizens.”

But the letter said the “Occupy Oakland” protest “is taking our police officers out of Oakland neighborhoods and away from protecting the citizens of Oakland.”

The union said it is important to fight crime in Oakland because “we are the fifth most violent city in the United States—with more shootings and homicides than any city west of the Mississippi.”

The letter said, “Last night’s murder, right in the epicenter of “Occupy Oakland,” is unacceptable. So is the violence being promoted by ‘renegade’ protesters who are lighting firebombs, destroying property and attacking police.”

The union said, “It is time for us to stop directing all of our efforts at policing the small enclave of Occupy Oakland and get back to our job of protecting the citizens of Oakland in the neighborhoods where our residents live.”

In a plea to protesters, the union said, “Please, we ask you: leave Frank Ogawa Plaza peacefully and immediately so Oakland Police can get back to work fighting the devastating crime that’s occurring in our neighborhoods.”

The police union said, “You have sent the world a strong message; now it is time to go home” and leaving peacefully today “will send a message to Oakland that you care about our citizens and respect our city.”

The union concluded, “With last night’s homicide, in broad daylight, in the middle of rush hour, Frank Ogawa Plaza is no longer safe. Please leave peacefully, with your heads held high, so we can get police officers back to work fighting crime in Oakland neighborhoods.”

The mayor said she will ask for the assistance of religious leaders who participated in the prayer breakfast in talking to the protesters and asking them to leave.

However, more than 25 of those religious leaders issued a statement saying that they support the encampment and Oakland officials shouldn’t use the shooting as a reason to close it down.

In their statement, they said they see Occupy Oakland as “a positive catalyst for hope and needed change in Oakland that is rendered even more important in light of more killings in Oakland.”

The Rev. Kurt Kuhwald of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland said, “To evict the many people in this camp, many who are homeless and unemployed, does injury to them by pushing them back into the shadows and margins again. It also deals a devastating blow to the heart of a prophetic and hopeful movement that is calling for much needed change.”

Servant B.K. Woodson, the pastor of a church in downtown Oakland, said, “I believe that Occupy Oakland is precisely the symbolic and visible manifestation of the community’s cry against violence, not just at the hands of guns, but at the hands of an economic system that leaves so many jobless, homeless and hopeless.”

The religious leaders said they planned to march from the cathedral to the Occupy Oakland encampment Friday.

Dom Arotzarena, the police officer union’s president, expressed frustration that Quan is only asking protesters to leave the plaza voluntarily and isn’t taking more forceful steps to remove them.

Arotzarena said, “She is in charge of the city” but he thinks she hasn’t shown any sense of urgency in getting the protesters to leave.

He asked, “What is the mayor going to do?”

Quan refused to take questions from reporters after she finished making brief comments at the cathedral.

Quan joined religious leaders in releasing doves from the cathedral’s plaza in an effort to seek peace.

When she released a dove, Quan said, “May we be strong enough to find peace in our city.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS SF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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