Peaceful Occupy protests degenerate into chaos

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 9:00 a.m. MDT

Occupy Oakland protesters pass a burning garbage heap during a confrontation with police on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, in Oakland, Calif. Following a mainly peaceful day-long protest by thousands of anti-Wall Street demonstrators, several hundred rallied through the night with some painting graffiti, breaking windows and setting file to garbage cans.

Noah Berger, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — A protest that shut down the Port of Oakland to show the broadening reach of the Occupy Wall Street movement ended in violence when police in riot gear arrested dozens of protesters overnight who broke into a vacant building, shattered downtown windows, sprayed graffiti and set blazes along the way.

At least four protesters were hospitalized Thursday with various injuries, including one needing stitches after fighting with an officer, police said. Several officers were also injured but didn't need hospitalization.

"We go from having a peaceful movement to now just chaos," protester Monique Agnew, 40, said early Thursday.

Protesters also threw concrete chunks, metal pipes, lit roman candles and molotov cocktails, police said.

The far-flung movement of protesters challenging the world's economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks, capturing the world's attention by shutting down one of the nation's busiest shipping ports toward the end of a daylong "general strike" that prompted solidarity rallies across the U.S.

Several thousands of people converged on the Port of Oakland, the nation's fifth-busiest harbor, in a nearly five-hour protest Wednesday, swarming the area and blocking exits and streets with illegally parked vehicles and hastily erected, chain-link fences afterward.

Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said evening operations had been "effectively shut down."

Port officials hoped to resume maritime operations Thursday "and that Port workers will be allowed to get to their jobs without incident. Continued missed shifts represent economic hardship for maritime workers, truckers, and their families, as well as lost jobs and lost tax revenue for our region."

Big trucks were backed up Thursday morning as footage on KGO-TV showed about a dozen protesters manning a chain link fence blocking a port entrance. Truck drivers argued with protesters, who said they planned to stay until at least 9 a.m.

Port officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the status of operations at the port.

Supporters in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and elsewhere staged smaller-scale demonstrations. Each group said its protest was a show of support for the Oakland movement, which became a rallying point when an Iraq War veteran was seriously injured in a clash with police last week.

The larger Occupy movement has yet to coalesce into an organized association and until the port shut down had largely been limited scattershot marches, rallies and tent encampments since it began in September.

Organizers in Oakland viewed the strike and port shutdown as a significant victory. Police said that about 7,000 people participated in demonstrations throughout the day that were peaceful except for a few incidents of vandalism at local banks and businesses.

Boots Riley, a protest organizer, touted the day as a success, saying "we put together an ideological principle that the mainstream media wouldn't talk about two months ago."

His comments came before a group of protesters broke into the former Travelers Aid building in order to, as some shouting protesters put it, "reclaim the building for the people."

Riley, whose anti-capitalist views are well documented, considered the port shutdown particularly significant for organizers who targeted it in an effort to stop the "flow of capital."

The port sends goods primarily to Asia, including wine as well as rice, fruits and nuts, and handles imported electronics, apparel and manufacturing equipment, mostly from Asia, as well as cars and parts from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.

An accounting of the financial toll from the shutdown was not immediately available.

The potential for the chaos that ultimately erupted was not something Riley wanted to even consider.

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