Occupy protesters rally around wounded Iraq vet

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 27 2011 8:30 a.m. MDT

An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is arrested during a march in solidarity with their sister protest in Oakland, California, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, in New York. The recent display of force in Oakland and Atlanta has unnerved some protestors while rallying others, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and exacerbating the current distrust of the police.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — Veering around police barricades, anti-Wall Street protesters held a late-night march through Oakland streets, a day after one of their number — an Iraq War veteran — was left in critical condition with a fractured skull following a clash with police.

The show of force in Oakland along with SWAT arrests in Atlanta have sent chills among some anti-Wall Street demonstrators.

But another showdown between police and protesters in Oakland appeared to be averted late Wednesday night as several hundred filed out of a plaza declared off-limits for overnight use and marched through nearby streets.

An AP photographer on the scene said police erected barricades to prevent the marchers from reaching a freeway, sending the group down side streets en masse.

Small contingents of officers could be seen following behind but there were no signs of any confrontations or arrests. The march tapered off after about an hour, with most of the protesters apparently dispersing.

At least one tent was back up Thursday morning, along with a handful of people. Police two days earlier cleared the plaza, which had grown to dozens of tents and raised health and safety concerns among city officials.

On Tuesday, an Iraq War veteran marching with Oakland demonstrators suffered a cracked skull in the chaos between officers and protesters, further raising concern among some in the movement.

Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Marine veteran, was in critical condition Wednesday after he had been struck, said a spokesman for Highland Hospital in Oakland.

It was not clear exactly what type of object hit the veteran or who might have thrown it, though the group Iraq Veterans Against the War said officers were responsible.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference that the events leading up to Olsen's injury would be investigated as vigorously as a fatal police shooting.

"It's unfortunate it happened. I wish that it didn't happen. Our goal, obviously, isn't to cause injury to anyone," the chief said.

In a show of solidarity with their West Coast counterparts, several hundred members of Occupy Wall Street marched past the padlocked gates surrounding New York's City Hall Wednesday night chanting "March with Oakland." While numerous police officers stood watch, the marchers circled City Hall and then broke up into smaller groups as they returned to Zuccotti Park. Police said early Thursday morning that about 10 people had been arrested.

While demonstrators in other cities have built a working relationship with police and city leaders, they wondered on Wednesday how long the good spirit would last and whether they could be next.

Will they have to face riot gear-clad officers and tear gas that their counterparts in Oakland faced Tuesday? Or will they be handcuffed and hauled away in the middle of the night like protesters in Atlanta?

"Yes, we're afraid. Is this the night they're going to sneak in?" said activist William Buster of Occupy Wall Street, where the movement began last month to protest what they see as corporate greed.

"Is this the night they might use unreasonable force?" he asked.

The message from officials in cities where other encampments have sprung up was simple: We'll keep working with you. Just respect your neighbors and keep the camps clean and safe.

Business owners and residents have complained in recent weeks about assaults, drunken fights and sanitation problems. Officials are trying to balance their rights and uphold the law while honoring protesters' free speech rights.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Wednesday that the Occupy LA encampment outside City Hall "cannot continue indefinitely."

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