OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A day of action by Occupy Oakland activists on Monday resulted in tense encounters with police and counter-protesters but there weren’t any arrests or reports of violence.
The daylong series of actions, which activists organized to protest police actions at previous demonstrations, began and ended with rallies at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse, where a small number of activists had brief hearings on charges stemming from the previous demonstrations.
But the most intense activity occurred during the noon hour at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall, where about 150 Occupy Oakland protesters outnumbered a group of about 50 counter-protesters who wore green armbands, carried a banner that said “Stand for Oakland” and criticized the tactics of Occupy demonstrators.
The two groups engaged in a shouting match at one point and then about 20 Oakland police officers in riot gear marched into the plaza in formation and confiscated a sound system that Occupy protesters were using, saying that protesters didn’t have a permit for it.
There was some pushing and shoving between the protesters and police, as well as angry words from protesters, but no one was arrested.
KCBS’ Bob Butler Reports:
Moments after the skirmish, Brian Glasscock, a 20-year-old student at Laney College in Oakland, said it was his sound system that was seized and he was worried about getting it back, as he estimated that the equipment is worth between $700 and $1,000.
Glasscock also said he wondered why police decided to confiscate the sound system today, saying there has been amplified sound at numerous previous protests at the plaza the last several months but police had never acted before.
“It’s a concerted effort by Oakland police to destroy the Occupy movement,” Glasscock alleged.
He described it as “a heavy-handed strategy” and pledged “we’ll be smarter next time.”
Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said officers acted Monday because several business owners complained about the noise from the Occupy Oakland protest.
Watson said police didn’t act previously because in some cases the protests were on weekends and no one complained and in other cases because the crowds were so large that if would have been dangerous for officers to come into the crowds and seize sound equipment.
Watson said Monday’s actions were “relatively peaceful” despite the tension when officers grabbed the sound system and said the system eventually will be returned to Glasscock.
Watson said the Stand for Oakland counter-protesters had a permit for the sound system they used for their rally Monday.
Occupy Oakland protester Adam Katz noted that there were more than three-dozen officers at the plaza Monday afternoon. He said police should be focusing on investigating several shootings that occurred over the weekend rather than monitoring protests.
Daud Abdullah, a 51-year-old electrician who is one of that group’s leaders, said the group consists of “Oakland residents who are fed up with the whole movement and what’s gone along with it,” particularly fringe groups who are violent.
Abdullah said police have been so distracted by dealing with Occupy Oakland protests that they haven’t been able to adequately focus on the city’s crime problems.
He said an example is a lack of police attention to a drug gang that is operating where he lives in the Maxwell Park neighborhood in East Oakland, near Mills College.
“I want my kid to be able to walk down the street and be safe,” Abdullah said.
About two dozen Occupy Oakland protesters came to the Wiley Manuel Courthouse on Monday morning to attend a hearing at which 10 activists were arraigned on misdemeanor charges of obstructing a sidewalk during a demonstration Jan. 4.
The activists are scheduled to return to court Feb. 22, when their attorneys will ask that the charges against them be dismissed.
More than 100 protesters marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza back to the courthouse Monday afternoon for a hearing for activist David Bowen, who is charged with felony assault on a peace officer for his actions at a protest Jan. 7.
Bowen, who isn’t in custody, is scheduled to return to court March 27 for a preliminary hearing.
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