Following a day of peaceful protests, the Occupy Oakland demonstrations turned violent Wednesday night as police and protesters fired weapons at each other late into the evening.
Nearly 40 people were arrested overnight as police attempted to clear protesters from downtown streets. Police threw flashbang grenades at the crowds and used teargas in an attempt to control the demonstrators who temporarily took over an abandoned building and used homemade bomb launchers to fire M80s at police.
Some protesters urged both sides to remain peaceful, chanting, “Don't throw (crap)" and "Stand still the world is watching" but the violent standoff continued over what police called an "unlawful assembly" at midnight. The late night protests even drew the attention of the city’s mayor, Jean Quan, who distributed her phone number and asked protesters to call her in an effort to stem the violence.
The Oakland protests are quickly becoming one of the country’s largest and most tense, garnering criticism for the police use of force. Demonstrators have gathered at Oakland’s Frank Ogala Plaza near city hall for nearly two weeks to support the Occupy Wall Street protests that have since turned into a nationwide movement against corporate greed.
Wednesday, the demonstrators called for a general strike and drew large crowds of nearly 4,500 protesters that shut down the city’s port and forced several banks to close. Hundreds of teachers in Oakland stayed home from work Wednesday in support of the general strike. Oakland’s school district accommodated the teachers, consolidating classrooms and redistributing children, and no school was forced to close because of the teacher absences.
“We do support some of the ideals of Occupy Oakland, particularly the concept that services have been dramatically underfunded,” spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District, Troy Flint said according to the Los Angeles Times. “We wanted to allow teachers, who were fighting for public education and children, to have their voice.”
(Photo: STEPHEN LAM/Reuters/Landov)