(Photo: AP Photo/Darryl Bush)
As weeks pass in many of the nation’s Occupy protests, tensions between city officials, police and protesters are beginning to mount. Tuesday night in Oakland, police unleashed tear gas on crowds of protesters attempting to re-occupy a cleared encampment in Atlanta early Wednesday, 53 of whom were arrested as the city cleared a public park that demonstrators refused to leave.
Oakland Police donned riot gear and fired the tear gas into crowds of protesters after they say the crowd threw paint, bottles and other dangerous objects at officers.
“It sounded like bombs,” said Joaquin Jutt, 24, a digital animator who was among the protesters on Tuesday night, according to The New York Times. “There was a stinging and burning in my throat, eyes and nostrils. My eyes burned like there was hot sauce in them.”
The clash began after protesters attempted to re-enter an area near City Hall that police cleared earlier that day. Protesters were camped out there for weeks and police say that the conditions were a public health and safety concern.
"The city remains committed to respecting free speech as well as maintaining the city's responsibility to protect public health and safety," Oakland police said in a statement. "Sanitation conditions worsened with frequent instances of public urination and defecation, as well as improper food storage. The existing rodent problem in the park was exacerbated, and authorities were unable to control it because of the campers' presence. Graffiti, litter and vandalism also posed problems.”
In Atlanta, 53 people were arrested when police began clearing the city’s Woodruff Park where protesters have camped out for several weeks. Early reports say that the park’s perimeter has been lined with 4-foot metal barricades and is being patrolled by nearly two-dozen police. As of Wednesday morning, protesters had not returned to the park.
The call to vacate the park came from Mayor Kasim Reed, who has been in a battle of words with the protesters for days now. Reed said that the protesters’ occupation of the park has cost the city about $300,000 since it began two weeks ago and also cited safety and heath concerns.