It was "Move-In Day" for Occupy Oakland today, and as we type protesters have once again met with riot-cop resistance in the form of barricades, smoke bombs, and tear gas as they were attempting to occupy the historic but long underused Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center on Lake Merritt. Oakland North reports via Twitter that a crowd of at least 300 had gathered at noon at Frank Ogawa Plaza including people with children and began a march toward the undisclosed location, which Occupy Oakland organizers had previously said would be a building they would occupy as their political hub and "social center."
The march started peacefully enough, with protesters chanting "Solidarity forever. The movement makes us strong," and "We are people. We are not illegal," and playing Tupac's "California Love" on some mobile speakers.
But as the crowd moved toward the intended occupation target, the convention center, on 10th Street not far from the Oakland Museum, the standoff began. Some Twitterers allege that ABC 7's aerial feed went black before the smoke bombs and tear gas started being deployed, and of course people are alarmed because of the number of children in the crowd.
The convention center has been, for the past decade, the site of one of the city's most visible homeless encampments. The homeless only relocated recently after construction crews moved in to remove the 12th Street Dam connecting Lake Merritt to the Estuary, and an improvement project began in the adjacent park.
We'll update you as we learn more.
Update: This guy is doing a live UStream he says he got tear-gassed, but not too badly because the wind was blowing the right way. Most protesters appear to be headed back to Frank Ogawa Plaza, which they're referring to as "OGP" (Oscar Grant Plaza).
Update 4:05 p.m.: Here's NBC's coverage. Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana issued a statement: "The city of Oakland will not be bullied by threats of violence or illegal activity. This community has a rich history of community engagement and progressive activism to address the very complex issues that the protesters claim to stand for poverty, the housing crisis, homelessness, social justice, literacy, education and economic inequality none of which can be addressed through violence, threats or intimidation."
Update 1/29: The estimated number of protesters initially marching from downtown, according to the Chron, was 1,000. In total, some 400 protesters were arrested, and skirmishes went on into the night on downtown Oakland streets. Protesters stormed City Hall at one point and vandalized the ground floor, overturning a model of the city. A small band chose a second building to target around 6:30 yesterday evening: the YMCA. A number were arrested after storming in to the functioning health club/gym.
At today's "rise up" rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, one of the speakers, a militant retired professor from Cal State East Bay, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, spoke militantly. "Passionate, organized hatred is the element missing in all that we do to try to change the world. Now is the time to spread hate, hatred for the rich." We're not sure what that has to do with storming the YMCA, but anyway.