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Merchants, even Occupy Oakland protesters, clean up Oakland vandalism

Occupy Oakland protesters clean graffiti off a wall at Frank Ogawa Plaza. (CALIFORNIA BEAT PHOTO)

City merchants, maintenance crews and Occupy Oakland protesters picked up scrub brushes and dust pans to clean up what became a violent clash between anarchists and police Wednesday morning that led to 80 arrests.

Police from several Bay Area law enforcement agencies lobbed tear gas at the anarchists after they were pelted with rocks, bottles and a homemade shield, interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said Thursday. 

The clash marred what was described as a peaceful general strike day of action in Oakland, where an estimated 10,000 people participated in marches around the city and forced a complete shutdown of the Port of Oakland.

But by nightfall, the peaceful mood turned into a free-for-all after some protesters, singled out by Jordan as members of the Black Bloc anarchist group, began breaking storefront windows in Downtown Oakland and lighting fires to keep police away.

Protesters also took over the abandoned Traveller’s Aid building on 16th Street in Downtown Oakland.

Jordan said the decision by protesters to seize the building forced him to send in 400 riot-gear clad police officers to detain 80 protesters whom the police chief described as instigators of the violence.

On Thursday, the damage to the building was evident: all of the interior and exterior walls were marked with Occupy Wall Street graffiti, and protest signage littered the floor. Outside, maintenance crews crouched under plastic tarp as they covered graffiti left by protesters.

“Now is not a good time,” an unidentified woman said as she locked a rolling gate to keep reporters away from the building.

Remnants of graffiti were seen throughout the downtown area. Some Occupy Oakland protesters were seen helping work crews scrub off messages covering walls and windows of many storefronts.

By mid-afternoon, steady rain began falling on the Frank Ogawa Plaza campsite, forcing many Occupy Oakland protesters back into their tents in front of City Hall.

Asked whether weather would force them to pick-up the camp and leave, Occupy Oakland protesters said they would hold firm.

“Nope,” a protester said. “Rain or shine, we’ll be out here.”

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