Fences come down as 500 Occupy Oakland protesters gather 

The fences are coming down at Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday evening while a general assembly meeting continues among "Occupy Oakland" protesters.

At least 500 protesters gathered at the plaza to reclaim the site of their encampment, which was raided by police early Tuesday morning.

The entire plaza was not barricaded as it had been Tuesday night but the grass area of the plaza was blocked by a chain-link fence.

Tuesday night, police blocked the entire plaza including surrounding streets and kept the protesters from entering using tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades.

The protesters sat in a circle in the amphitheater in front of City Hall this evening to hold their general assembly meeting, as they did every night when the Oakland encampment occupied the plaza.

"This is the most inspiring point of my life. Never in my life have I felt that change is so close in this country," said a protester who identified himself as Ethan, a speaker at the meeting.

Protesters at the meeting announced that "Occupy Wall Street" -- the protest that inspired "Occupy Oakland" -- donated $20,000 to the Oakland demonstration.

Some protesters climbed over the surrounding fence to join the meeting but were met with jeers from the crowd who were hoping to avoid confrontations with police.

"I see this as a trap," said another speaker, pointing to the fence surrounding the grass area of the plaza. "They're hoping we walk right into this trap."

Other speakers this evening urged protesters to keep the commitment to nonviolence.

"The 99 percent should have a monopoly on peace," one speaker said.

Earlier Wednesday, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she's "very saddened" by "Occupy Oakland" protests Tuesday night that turned violent.

Speaking at a news conference at City Hall that was packed with reporters, Quan said, "We saw some of the best of the city and some of the worst."

Quan said most protesters and police officers behaved well but she's asked police Chief Howard Jordan to investigate allegations that some officers used excessive force.

The mayor said officers "took a lot of abuse" from protesters and Jordan said officers fired tear gas and bean bags after "they were assaulted with bottles, rocks and hazardous materials that were thrown at them" and some people disobeyed multiple orders to disperse.

Jordan said "we regret" what he described as "an unfortunate incident" in which Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Daly City man, was critically injured when he was hit in the head with a police projectile.

According to his friends at Iraq War Veterans Against the War, Olsen is currently sedated at Highland Hospital in Oakland with a skull fracture and is waiting to be examined by a neurosurgeon.

Jordan said his department is investigating the incident as if it were a level-one incident in which an officer used lethal force against someone.

"It's at the top of our list and we are gathering footage and investigating whether or not it was justified," Jordan said.

Jordan said Oakland police officers didn't use rubber bullets or wooden dowels during the protests but it's possible that other officers from other law enforcement agencies who were assisting them might have used such devices.

Quan said Oakland banned the use of such devices after Oakland police used them in an anti-Iraq War protest in 2003 and other agencies that help the city under mutual aid agreements are supposed to abide by that policy. But she said, "We don't know if that happened."

The massive demonstrations Tuesday night occurred about 12 hours after Oakland police and officers from other agencies removed protesters from the Occupy Oakland encampment that had been located in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall since Oct. 10.

Quan said she supported the encampment because it endorses protesters' goals of "getting some justice, some employment and a fair deal for average Americans."

But she said she and other city leaders decided late last week that the encampment had to be removed because it was becoming unhealthy and dangerous.

Quan said the city is using chemicals to clean up the encampment, which was littered with feces and debris, but the cleanup is taking longer than expected.

City Administrator Deanna Santana said part of Frank Ogawa Plaza, which had been completely fenced off Tuesday morning, has been reopened and will remain open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

But Santana said, "We request that there be peaceful, non-violent assembly, no camping, no lodging and no fires."

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing most of the approximately 115 protesters who were arrested Tuesday, issued a statement saying it "condemns" what it alleged were excessive uses of force and violations of the Oakland Police Department's crowd control policy.

The lawyers' group said the department's "violent response to last night's peaceful march was unjustified." Carlos Villarreal, the group's executive director, said, "The National Lawyers Guild is committed to defending the demonstrators until all are released from custody and cleared of all the charges."

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