OAKLAND, California (AP) – Police in riot gear began clearing anti-Wall Street protesters from one California city before dawn Tuesday, making arrests in the plaza where demonstrators have been camped out for about two weeks.
Television news footage showed numerous people in plastic handcuffs being led away from the Oakland site around 5 a.m. The protesters did not appear to be resisting, although an officer did fire a non-lethal projectile from a shotgun at a protester who threw a bottle, authorities told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
One of those arrested, Aiyahnna Johnson, 30, had been living at the camp with her 2-year-old daughter. “We want the best for you guys, that’s all,” the San Francisco Chronicle quoted her telling two officers who were leading her away.
The Occupy protests over economic inequality have spread from a single camp in New York City to cities across the United States and beyond since mid-September, overlapping with similar, earlier protests in Europe. An attempt earlier this month to clean the New York site, which protesters there feared was a tactic to shut them down, ended with authorities backing off.
But arrests and sweeps have occured in other cities. Tuesday’s police action in Oakland began around 4:40 a.m., when an officer on a loudspeaker told the protesters they were illegally blocking the plaza and were subject to arrest, according to the Chronicle.
The newspaper reported that several hundred people appeared ready to defend the camp about an hour before police moved in, placing Dumpsters, boards, pallets and even metal police-style barricades around the plaza.
Police maintained a heavy presence around downtown Oakland into the morning. Streets were closed off by police barricades.
A small group of people near the plaza were seen dragging police barricades into the street as police stood nearby.
A message for a police spokeswoman by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
City officials had originally been supportive of the protesters, with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan saying that sometimes “democracy is messy.”
But the city later warned the protesters that they were breaking the law and could not stay in the encampment overnight.
They cited concerns about rats, fire hazards, public urination and acts of violence at the site, which had grown to more than 150 tents and included health, child-care and kitchen areas.
But protesters over the weekend said they had no plans to leave.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.