OAKLAND (CBS / CNN / AP / BCN) — Oakland City Hall reopened Monday after municipal employees worked to clean up damage they said was caused over the weekend by Occupy protesters, about 400 of whom were arrested following clashes with police.
The mass arrests, described by police as the largest in Oakland history, appear to have injected new life into the Occupy movement as protesters in a number of American and European cities took to the streets Sunday to express their solidarity with the Occupy Oakland group.
PHOTOS: More Occupy Oakland Protests
“The Occupy movement will respond, as we have always responded: With an overwhelming show of collective resistance,” Occupy Wall Street said in a statement posted on its website.
But none of the weekend activities rose to the level of violence witnessed in Oakland, where protesters on Saturday clashed with police after they were prevented from taking over the long-vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center near Lake Merritt.
Protesters and Oakland police traded allegations over who was to blame for the violence that saw demonstrators throw rocks and bottles at police, who it turn fired bean bag rounds, tear gas and smoke grenades at the group.
KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:
Oakland Police Officer Johnna Watson described what transpired as “one of the largest mass arrests that we have seen in the city.” The charges ranged from failure to disperse to vandalism, Watson said.
Oakland, with a population of about 420,000, has a long and sometimes violent history of activism dating back to the mid-1960s with the founding of the militant Black Panther Party and later for its anti-war protests.
Oakland has been a flash point of the Occupy movement since October, when police used tear gas to break up demonstrators who refused to leave downtown. One demonstrator, an Iraq war veteran, suffered a skull fracture after being hit with a police projectile, according to a veteran’s group. Police said they acted after the crowd threw paint and other objects at officers.
In November, violence broke out again in Oakland when police shuttered an Occupy camp at an area park.
Twice, protesters have forced the shut down of the Port of Oakland.
But Saturday marked a new chapter in the Oakland Occupy movement when the group attempted to take over the long-vacant convention center to use as a hub.
KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:
The group said it was necessary, in part because “since November, the city of Oakland and its police force have made it impossible for us to meet, to serve food and to provide a place for people to stay.”
The effort turned violent when police turned the group back, alleging the protesters were damaging construction equipment and fences near the convention center.
By nightfall, the protesters stormed the YMCA at 2350 Broadway and later broke into City Hall, police and city officials said. While inside the historic City Hall building, authorities said the protesters smashed glass display cases and windows, spray-painted graffiti and burned the American and California flags.
Protesters have decried the allegations that they broke into the buildings, saying they entered both through open doors.
But Mayor Jean Quan told reporters that police have video showing protesters using a crowbar, or something similar to it, to pry open an emergency door to City Hall, letting about 50 demonstrators inside.
Quan took reporters through City Hall on Sunday, pointing to walls where “offensive” and “obscene” graffiti had already been painted over and other areas of garbage, vandalism and destruction that she said had been left by protesters.
Quan said that vandalism related to Occupy Oakland has already cost the financially-strapped city $2 million, and that occupy-related activities have cost more than $5 million since October.
Three police officers were injured in the weekend clashes, while two protestors had reported injuries, according to Police Chief Howard Jordan.
Meanwhile, Occupy Oakland put out a call for financial aid to help some of those arrested make bail.
“Our bail funds have been dwindling significantly as a result of the police backlash against occupy Oakland in the last month. If you are able, please donate,” the group said.
Occupy Oakland is part of a larger movement that began last year on New York’s Wall Street and quickly spread across the globe. While the protesters have highlighted a number of causes, the overarching theme remained the same: populist anger over what activists portray as an out-of-touch corporate, financial and political elite.
(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco, Bay City News Service, AP and CNN. All rights reserved.)