About 500 Occupy Oakland protesters returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza at about 5 p.m. tonight after it was re-opened by police but they didn’t make any immediate effort to set up their tents again.
The protesters held a general assembly to discuss possible future actions but the atmosphere was calm and the crowd had thinned out to about 200 people by 7 p.m.
Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said, “Things are very peaceful and we hope it stays that way all night.”
About 400 officers from the Oakland Police Department and seven other law enforcement agencies swooped into the plaza shortly after 5 a.m. today to remove tents that protesters had been living in for several weeks.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said earlier today that his department would let protesters return to the plaza but would arrest anyone who tried to set up lodging, such as tents, sleeping bags or lounge chairs.
One of the speakers at the general assembly tonight proposed what he described as “a reclamation of space” but no specific plans were announced.
Other speakers said the group would meet on Wednesday to discuss future actions.
Occupy Oakland organizer Boots Riley, a rap singer with The Coup and the Street Sweeper Social Club, said that although tonight’s meeting is calm there probably will be an effort to erect tents at the plaza again at some point.
But he said, “I don’t know when it will happen – it’s a matter of logistics.”
Referring to estimates that the city of Oakland spent between $300,000 and $500,000 to have other law enforcement agencies help Oakland police dismantle the encampment in the plaza, Riley said, “They can’t spend $500,000 every week and it would be very irresponsible for them to do that.”
He said, “We’re not going away” and “it would be smarter to let the tents be there.”
Riley also disputed claims by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and many city officials that the lengthy encampment has hurt businesses in downtown Oakland by scaring customers away.
He said Occupy Oakland protesters did a survey of small business owners in the downtown area and “we have 35 businesses who say it (the encampment) has been good for them.”
Referring to one of the movement’s goal, Riley said, “We have the power of numbers” and he would like to force corporations who do business in Oakland, such as McDonald’s, pay their employees higher wages.
Earlier today, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s legal adviser, Dan Siegel, resigned to protest Quan’s decision to raid the Occupy Oakland encampment.
Tonight, Quan announced that Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu has also resigned effective immediately.
However, Quan didn’t disclose the reason for Cornu’s resignation and Cornu, the former executive secretary-treasurer of the Alameda County Central Labor Council, couldn’t be reached for comment.
In a statement, Quan said, “Sharon has been a tremendous asset to my administration. We wish her well and I’m grateful for her contributions. I will be restructuring my administration and making additional personnel announcements in the coming days.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News