On Saturday, according to an Occupy Oakland statement, protesters began a series of actions attempting to put “a vacant building to better use,” which Mr. Anderson acknowledges can be seen as trespassing. The site in question has been vacant for six years, according to the statement, which asserts that the Occupy group had voted to mount a nonviolent action to turn the space into a social center and headquarters of Occupy Oakland.
The crowd was met with an overwhelming police force, says Anderson, a force buttressed by mutual aid from 13 surrounding cities.
“We did not throw anything," says Anderson.
However, the Oakland Police Department (OPD), which describes the events in its own release, said that as activists began to march, “the first dispersal order was given as the crowd began destroying construction equipment and fencing.”
“Officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares,” the OPD release said, adding that police “deployed smoke and tear gas.”
Anderson says simply, “This is a lie.”
By the end of the evening, some 400 protesters had been arrested and several police officers treated for injuries.
The OPD has not returned calls for comment. Its official statements say the protesters initiated the violent actions.
Reports from others on the ground paint a very different picture. Dan Miskulin, a contractor from San Francisco, describes a situation that many caught up in the action tweeted, texted, and blogged – saying that the police created an impossible situation for the protesters. According to these reports, police in riot gear surrounded the protesters, repeatedly funneling them into first a park and then an area by the YMCA from which they had no exit.