Published January 08, 2015
A clash between Oakland police and Occupy Wall Street protesters left an Iraq War veteran hospitalized Wednesday after a projectile struck him in a conflict that came as tensions grew over demonstration encampments across the San Francisco Bay Area.
Scott Olsen, 24, suffered a fractured skull Tuesday in a march with other protesters toward City Hall, said Dottie Guy, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. The demonstrators had been making an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of a disbanded protesters' camp when they were met by officers in riot gear.
It's not known exactly what type of object struck Olsen or who might have thrown it, though Guy's group said it was lodged by officers. Several small skirmishes had broken out in the night with police clearing the area by firing tear gas and protesters throwing rocks and bottles at them.
Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a late afternoon 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.
An Oakland hospital spokesman said Olsen, a network administrator in Daly City, was in critical condition Wednesday.
Later Wednesday, Oakland officials allowed protesters back into the plaza where their 15-day-old encampment had been raided but said people would be prohibiting from spending the night. The campsite itself was fenced off so it could be cleaned and treated with chemicals.
About 1,000 people quickly filled the plaza for a general assembly where speakers criticized city officials but urged the crowd to remain peaceful. Despite the pleas for order, a small number of people pulled down a section of the fence and the enclosure started falling like dominoes as others jumped on the downed pieces.
"I'm going to stay here tonight," said Jhalid Shakur, 43, of Oakland. "I don't have a tent, but I'll sleep on a bench if there's space."
"We're about to build our city back," he said.
In contrast the previous night, few police officers appeared to be in the immediate area.
Mayor Jean Quan said Oakland supports the protesters' goals but had to act Tuesday when a small number of them threw rocks, paint and bottles at the police.
"We had, on one hand, demonstrators who tried to rush banks, other demonstrators saying don't do that, and we had police officers, for the most part, 99 percent, who took a lot of abuse," the mayor said. "So yesterday was a sad day for us."
Jordan said an internal review board and local prosecutors have been asked to determine if officers on the scene used excessive force. He asked witnesses with recordings of violent interactions between civilians and the officers who came from several Bay Area agencies to submit them to investigators.
The clash Tuesday evening came as officials complained about what they described as deteriorating safety, sanitation and health issues at the dismantled camp.
The same concerns were being raised by San Francisco officials who warned protesters Wednesday that they could face arrest if they continue camping in a city plaza. In a letter, Police Chief Greg Suhr said the protesters could be arrested for violating a variety of city laws against camping, cooking, urinating and littering in public parks.
"Existing and ongoing violations make you subject to arrest," Suhr wrote in the notice, but didn't say if or when arrests would occur.
Police have taken down a previous Occupy San Francisco camp in the Justin Herman Plaza and also cleared another camp outside the Federal Reserve Bank downtown.
Police estimated at least five protesters were arrested and several others injured in the Tuesday evening clashes.
Oakland City Administrator Deana Santana said protesters would be allowed to assemble in the plaza outside City Hall from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. She pleaded with those who planned to make another stand there to refrain from smashing windows, lighting fires and attempting to stay overnight.
"If we could have these simple, reasonable requests, we think we can assure safety in the streets tonight," Santana said.
Associated Press writers Jason Dearen and Marcus Wohlsen contributed to this report.