Peaceful Occupy protests degenerate into chaos

Posted: November 3, 2011 in Local OC/LA News, US News

TERENCE CHEA, LISA LEFF and TERRY COLLINS
Associated Press
November 3, 2011

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – A day of demonstrations in Oakland that began as a significant step toward expanding the political and economic influence of the Occupy Wall Street movement, ended with police in riot gear arresting dozens of protesters who had marched through downtown to break into a vacant building, shattering windows, spraying graffiti and setting fires along the way.

“We go from having a peaceful movement to now just chaos,” said protester Monique Agnew, 40.

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.

About 3,000 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.

Port officials said they were forced to cease maritime operations, citing concerns for workers’ safety. They said in a statement they hope to resume 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.”

Supporters in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and elsewhere staged smaller-scale demonstrations; each group saying 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 had viewed the day 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.

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