by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")
The Oakland police department used tear gas, smoke bombs, and, according to some reports, rubber bullets to clear out protesters last night (the Oakland police department denies using rubber bullets, but wouldn't confirm or deny the use of rubber bullets by "other agencies.") There are conflicting reports all over the place, with some reports claiming flash bang grenades were used by police. The police have responded that they did not use flash bang grenades, and that the explosions were M-80s used by protesters. There are also reports of paint, eggs and bottles being thrown by protesters.
It will be a little while before the full story is known about exactly what happened in Oakland. The consensus does seem to be that there was some bad behavior by a few protesters, but that most of the other Occupiers were trying to stop the few miscreants from giving the police an excuse to crack down. In any case, even if the police are telling the truth about protester provocation, there is no excuse for their insane overreaction, which looked more like a scene from a totalitarian 3rd world country than like the United States:
Paint, eggs and glass bottles tossed by a few morons at police in riot gear do not justify this sort of response against an entire crowd of mostly peaceful protesters. This was shameful behavior on the part of the Oakland PD, and there needs to be accountability for it.
On a brighter note, scenes like this will only increase the power of the Occupy movement nationwide. Joshua Holland has a great piece on Alternet about the victory that the movement has already achieved:
Occupy Wall Street has already achieved a stunning victory – a victory that is easy to overlook, but impossible to overstate. In just one month, the protesters have shifted the national dialogue from a relentless focus on the deficit to a discussion of the real issues facing Main Street: the lack of jobs -- and especially jobs with decent benefits -- spiraling inequality, cash-strapped American families' debt-loads, and the pernicious influence of money in politics that led us to this point.
To borrow the loosely defined terms that define the Occupy movement, these ordinary citizens have shifted the conversation away from what the “1 percent” -- the corporate right and its dedicated media, network of think-tanks and PR shops -- want to talk about and, notably, paid good money to get us to talk about.
Indeed. And the conversation is only getting louder all across the country. In my backyard, yesterday the normally fairly conservative Ventura County Star printed my letter to the editor countering this atrocious column by Deroy Murdock accusing the President of declaring "class war" against the wealthy. It's a tiny victory, but just one point among millions to indicate how the conversation is changing in America and around the world.
There is a clarion call rising against income inequality in this country, and the more the police crack down on the Occupy protesters, the louder it will become.