OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Following a violent clash between Occupy Oakland protesters and police earlier this week, a new round of protests in Oakland could be a bellwether on whether police have agitated or suppressed the movement, according to some analysts.
At least three tents were back up in front of Oakland City Hall along with handfuls of people in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Thursday following a late-night march that came one day after the clash with police, who were ordered to clear the plaza after it had grown to dozens of tents and raised health and safety concerns among city officials.READ MORE: 6 Arrested After 2 Sideshows In Vallejo
“The police chose to make the situation more contentious. Now the question is whether they were right in their calculation,” Michael Heaney, assistant professor of organizational studies and political science at the University of Michigan, told CNN.
“Have they suppressed the movement or have they galvanized it?” Heaney asked.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said “99 percent of the protesters were absolutely peaceful” and blamed the confrontations with police Tuesday night on a select few. The public appeared to be holding Quan accountable, however, with a new CBS 5 poll showing her approval rating further slumping in the wake of the violence.
KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:
Quan initially supported the protests, saying that sometimes “democracy is messy.”
But tensions reached a boiling point after a sexual assault, a severe beating and a fire were reported and paramedics were denied access to the 15-day-old encampment, according to city officials. They also cited concerns about rats, fire hazards and public urination.
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“We had, on one hand, demonstrators who tried to rush banks, other demonstrators saying don’t do that, and we had police officers, for the most part, who took a lot of abuse,” Quan said.
Already, this week’s Oakland violence has prompted a warning from police in New York that they will pursue legal action against any protesters who injure police officers. Separately, the mayor of Atlanta accused the movement of becoming violent and also ordered arrests.
While demonstrators in some other cities like Boston and Tampa, Fla. have built a working relationship with police and city leaders, they too now wonder how long the good spirit will last and whether they could be next — potentially facing riot gear-clad officers and tear gas that their counterparts in Oakland faced.
Officials at the Oakland Police Department told CBS 5 that the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office was joining OPD’s internal affairs unit in investigating how 24-year-old protester Scott Olsen, a former U.S. Marine and two-time Iraq war veteran, suffered a skull fracture in Tuesday evening’s clashes.
Olsen, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was upgraded to fair condition and moved into an intensive care unit on Thursday at Oakland’s Highland Hospital. He sustained a skull fracture after allegedly being struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police.
“It’s unfortunate it happened. I wish that it didn’t happen. Our goal, obviously, isn’t to cause injury to anyone,” OPD Chief Howard Jordan said at press conference.
Olsen was among a group marching from the downtown library toward City Hall in an effort to reclaim the group’s encampment that had been cleared out by police.READ MORE: Plan For Urban Village At San Jose's New BART Station Raises Concerns With Local Businesses
The violence between police and protesters escalated after demonstrators allegedly pelted officers with bottles, rocks and paint, authorities said. Police then fired tear gas into the downtown streets to disperse the crowd.
In all, Oakland police arrested 102 people on Tuesday night for unlawful assembly and unlawful lodging — but Oakland isn’t the only city cracking down on Occupy protesters.
Also Tuesday evening, Atlanta police arrested demonstrators at a downtown park. “This movement is moving toward escalation. That it is no longer peaceful in my judgment and there are elements in that movement that are willing to engage in violence,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told the Associated Press, citing a man seen walking in the park with an AK-47 assault rifle.
Officials in Providence, R.I., said they were also moving ahead with plans to evict activists.
Meanwhile, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department warned that it will pursue legal claims against any Occupy Wall Street protesters who injure any of its members.
So far, more than 20 New York City officers have been injured in Occupy-related incidents, said Ed Mullins, president of the association.
“In light of the growing violence attendant to the Occupy movements across the country, particularly as evidenced by the recent events in Oakland, I am compelled to place these so-called ‘occupiers’ on notice that physical assaults on police officers will not be tolerated,” Mullins said in a statement.
“I am deeply concerned that protesters will be emboldened by the recent rash of violent acts against police officers in other cities. New York’s police officers are working around the clock, as the already-overburdened economy in New York is being drained by ‘occupiers’ who intentionally and maliciously instigate needless and violent confrontations with the police,” Mullins said.
The Oakland violence marks a controversial turn in the Occupy movement, which began in mid-September in New York’s Wall Street district and has since mushroomed to dozens of cities across the country.
The national movement has no leader and is denouncing the widespread gap between the rich and, according to the movement’s slogan, “the remaining 99%” of the country.
“I think part of it is that the movement is largely leaderless,” Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning and Development, said about the Oakland clash.
“If someone is frustrated, there’s no guarantee that they are going to channel it into something positive or if they’re going to channel it in something negative,” Jeffe told CNN.
Heaney suggested the Oakland police action of closing down the encampment may have been a mistake in retrospect.
“People are going to respond to that in a not-peaceful way,” Heaney said. “The smarter strategy on the part of police is to ignore them and it would eventually burn out and people would go home.”
Mayor Quan said going forward that “if the demonstration can stay peaceful and safe, there will be a minimal police presence” in the plaza, but she stopped short of saying protesters would be allowed to campout overnight for an extended period as they had done previously.MORE NEWS: Passenger Jet Narrowly Missed Truckee Homes When It Crashed
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. CNN Wire, Bay City News and the AP all contributed to this report.)