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Video: Oakland port reopens after pre-dawn violence

  1. Transcript of: Oakland port reopens after pre-dawn violence

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Back out West we go. In Oakland , California , it was early this morning before dawn that police in riot gear moved in, broke up a protest that had been peaceful all day long even when it shut down the nation's fifth largest port, but then at the end took a violent turn. NBC 's Miguel Almaguer is in Oakland for us again tonight. Miguel , good evening.

    MIGUEL ALMAGUER reporting: Brian , good evening. Tonight the port is reopened, the city of Oakland is cleaning up after a violent morning. It was a sour ending to what was for the most part a peaceful day. It was the confrontation Oakland wanted to avoid. A small crowd of vandals threw Molotov cocktails and chunks of concrete at police.

    Unidentified Man #1: Today was a peaceful day. This could jeopardize people's lives right now.

    ALMAGUER: Officers fired back with tear gas and bean bags to clear away the rioters. More than 80 were arrested.

    Chief HOWARD JORDAN (Oakland Police Department Interim Chief): We consider them anarchists and provocateurs, people intent on causing problems, damage.

    ALMAGUER: The clash shattered what had been a noisy, but mostly peaceful citywide strike. Some 7,000 demonstrators marched and successfully shut down the nation's fifth largest port.

    Unidentified Man #2: Go home!

    ALMAGUER: At nightfall most left. The port reopened this morning.

    Mr. JOE JOHNSON (Truck Driver): I understand them trying to make a point or whatever, but it seems to me that they're hurting, you know, the little guys.

    Protesters: Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!

    ALMAGUER: In Seattle , Occupy protesters blocked hotel doors where the CEO of JPMorgan Chase was scheduled to speak. Police used pepper spray to move them.

    Unidentified Man #3: I'm sick and tired of the wealth inequalities in this country.

    Protesters: All day, all week, occupy Wall Street !

    ALMAGUER: In New York today, 17 were arrested when protesters blocked the entrance to Goldman Sachs . Back in Oakland , yesterday's demonstrators helped with today's cleanup.

    Ms. HADAS ALTERMAN (Occupy Oakland): They do not represent what Occupy Oakland or any movement in Occupy -- in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street is about.

    ALMAGUER: Vandals shattered bank windows, defaced walls and even stormed a Whole Foods store.

    Mr. DAVID McCOY: (Whole Foods Cashier): Went from a good, peaceful march and they went haywire when they came down here and started throwing paint, they attacked some of our customers that came out of our store.

    ALMAGUER: The Occupy Oakland protesters remain camped out on the steps of city hall . They say they are re-energized by yesterday's citywide strike. And despite this Bay Area rain, Brian , they say they have plans to go nowhere.

    WILLIAMS: Miguel Almaguer in the Bay Area for us tonight. Miguel , thanks.

updated 11/3/2011 6:09:25 PM ET 2011-11-03T22:09:25

Occupy Wall Street protesters had just a few hours to celebrate what they saw as their biggest victory so far: the peaceful shutdown of the nation's fifth-busiest port. Then the rioting began.

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A day after some protesters clashed with riot police, set fires and shattered windows in Oakland, Calif., demonstrators across the country condemned the violence and wondered whether it was a turn that would destroy their cause.

"They don't speak for the majority of people who were here yesterday," said Hadas Alterman, a college student who was gathering trash at a tent camp near Oakland City Hall. "That was an hour of action, and we were out here for 12 hours and it was peaceful."

The protest outside the port, which reopened Thursday, represented an escalation in tactics as demonstrators targeted a major symbol of the nation's commerce with peaceful rallies and sit-ins.

Video: Thousands of ‘Occupy’ protesters on the move in Oakland (on this page)

The violence that followed, however, raised questions about whether a movement with no organizational structure and no high-profile leaders can do anything to stop those they called troublemakers.

So far, few cities have reached the level of Oakland, a unique place with a long history of tensions between residents and police.

Bob Norkus at the Occupy Boston camp said the riots didn't represent the broader movement and likely wouldn't have a lasting effect on it, either. The movement is still evolving and mistakes are inevitable, he said.

It "has to be nonviolent, or else it will just end. We won't get the support," he said. "It doesn't mean you can't agitate people. But you can't also be breaking windows and burning."

Police in riot gear arrested more than 80 protesters in downtown Oakland, where bands of masked protesters took over a vacant building, erected roadblocks and threw chunks of concrete and firebombs. Five people and several officers were injured.

Chris Hedges, who demonstrating at Goldman Sachs' headquarters in New York, said the clashes in Oakland are a reminder to protesters that they should only respond peacefully to police actions.

"It's awful. But police want people to break windows and set cars on fire, because it's the kind of thing they know how to master — with force," he said before being led quietly away in handcuffs.

Why the youth of 'occupy' are so upset

Raymon Curtis, who was protesting in Portland, Ore., said he doesn't believe the police in his city are seeking violence.

"I looked in their eyes and at first I thought it was a hard look," Curtis said. "Then, I realized it was the same look I had when I went to prison for the first time. They're terrified."

Some protesters said violence can bring attention to the cause.

"This thing has to escalate so people see the violence and who is protecting the interests of the corporations," said Denver protester Dwayne Hudson, standing next to a grill with logs burning over charcoal to stay warm after a snowstorm.

The far-flung movement challenging the world's economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks, with Oakland becoming a rallying point after an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police last week.

Organizers called for a general strike on Wednesday, and supporters in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and elsewhere held smaller-scale demonstrations, some in solidarity with their Oakland counterparts.

Protesters in Oakland and in other cities viewed the day's events and the port shutdown as a significant victory.

Police, who had little to no presence during the protest during the day, said about 7,000 people participated in largely peaceful demonstrations. There were a few incidents of vandalism at local banks and businesses.

An accounting of the financial toll from the damage and the port shutdown was not immediately available.

A protest organizer in Chicago, Joshua Kaunert, said the shutdown was an "amazing" event for the movement, but didn't want to speculate on what effect the violence would have. He said the lack of a formal leadership structure — and the emphasis on what he called a "true, direct democracy" — makes it difficult to weed out potential troublemakers.

"As a movement, it is definitely hard to keep that kind of element away, but that's a double-edged sword," Kaunert said. "If you want true, direct democracy, you're going to have issues, regardless."

The movement's tent camps in public parks have drawn all types of people, including the homeless, families and anarchists.

At the Oakland encampment, Hale Nicholson, who described himself and others as pacifists, said he participated in Wednesday's demonstration and march to the port and then went to sleep at the camp around 9:30 p.m. Around 1 a.m., he said, he was awakened by the sound of flash-bang grenades.

PhotoBlog: Protesters set fires, clash with police Oakland

A group of protesters broke into the former Travelers Aid building in order to, as some shouting protesters put it, "reclaim the building for the people." They voiced anger over budget cuts that forced the closure of a homeless aid program.

They blocked off a street with wood, metal Dumpsters and other large trash bins, sparking bonfires that leapt as high as 15 feet in the air. Several businesses were heavily vandalized. Dozens of protesters wielding shields were surrounded and arrested.

Police said they used tear gas and beanbags to disperse the crowd.

Protesters and police faced off in an uneasy standoff until the wee hours of the morning.

It is the kind of posture that Oakland is familiar with, with clashes erupting during the 1960s-era protests over the Vietnam War and the draft, among other issues. More recently, in 2009 and 2010, the city was the scene of violent demonstrations over the killing of an unarmed black man by a white transit officer. Downtown businesses were looted, windows smashed and fires set.

Then, as now, police blamed the violence on a small group of anarchists, many from outside the city.

Shari Rivers, the manager of a Tully's Coffee located on the city hall plaza, was busy cleaning up Thursday morning after protesters broke windows, stole some property and knocked over the cash register overnight.

"I cried. It's very disheartening. I am part of the 99 percent and have supported this movement," she said, adding that she blamed the city for letting the protest get out of hand. She added, "This shouldn't happen in a U.S. city."

___

Associated Press writers Justin Juozapavicius in Tulsa, Okla., Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco, Terry Collins and Terence Chea in Oakland, Calif., Nigel Duara in Portland, Ore., Ivan Moreno in Denver, Jay Lindsay in Boston, Verena Dobnik in New York and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Data: Occupy Wall Street

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