Richmond police provide back up at Occupy Oakland general strike
on November 4, 2011
The Richmond Police Department assisted with crowd control at the Occupy Oakland “general strike” Wednesday evening, marking the second time in two weeks that they have provided back up to the Oakland Police Department.
Captain Mark Gagan said 12 Richmond officers were sent with the Contra Costa County Mutual Aid Mobile Field Force to support perimeter control. The group arrived on the scene around 8 p.m.
“We basically waited to see where we were needed and what was needed,” Gagan said. “Around 1 o’ clock, we were sent to the area of 20th and Broadway to basically assist with officers who were trying to deter property damage.”
Richmond Confidential’s sister site Oakland North estimated that around 10,000 protesters attended the Occupy Oakland protest Wednesday night.
Although the “general strike” was mostly nonviolent, there were reports of vandalism throughout the day. By 10:30 p.m., OPD reported that “anarchists” were roaming the streets and, by midnight, police released tear gas.
Reports suggest that 60 to 100 people were arrested.
Gagan said the protests were primarily peaceful when his team responded to OPD back up requests late on Oct. 25, but the atmosphere was different last night.
“There was much more disorder than we had seen the first time we went,” Gagan said.
Gagan did not personally observe any vandals in action, but said he saw broken windows, fresh graffiti and smoke in the air from fires. He said he felt there was a clear distinction between those demonstrating nonviolently and those taking part in civil disorder.
“You see a group of teachers with a sign that says, ‘Protect our future,’” he said. “And then 12 hours later, there’s someone lighting dumpsters on fire and smashing windows. Those certainly aren’t people from the same movement.”
Gagan said protesters seemed to ignore him and the other cops on the outskirts of the protest.
“The first time we were in there, the protesters were trying to draw attention to their issues, trying to talk to us about our financial futures,” he said. “This time they saw law enforcement as part of the landscape.”
The RPD established early on that they would only assist with perimeter security and traffic control. The group has not been involved in any direct contact with protesters or dismantling of tents. Gagan said their work last night primarily took place about five blocks from the epicenter of the protests at Frank Ogawa Plaza and consisted mainly of watching parking police and fire vehicles, and directing traffic to alternate routes.
“Richmond officers were sensitive to the concerns of our community and our leaders who don’t want us violently engaging protesters from Occupy Oakland,” Gagan said. “We are trying to balance our obligations to other law enforcement agencies to provide public safety while simultaneously making sure that our actions do not alienate us from our community.”
The RPD did not make any of the Wednesday night arrests.
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