Get thousands of people out in protest and you can pretty much guarantee that some of them will cause trouble. This was the case at Occupy Oakland today as some protesters broke the windows of big banks and threw rocks. But, the majority of the protesters seem to have gotten the picture that peaceful protest is the way and have made a point to steer the Occupy Oakland events in the right direction and make sure the acts of a few are not seen as the style of the protest as a whole.
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Bank of America, Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Whole Foods Market, and a couple other businesses received broken windows today in Oakland, but, according to reports, each time a small group of vandals got started, the larger group of protesters curtailed their destructive tendencies before things got too out of hand.
In one instance where vandals broke the windows of a local shop (which, to be clear, is quite against the general points of the Occupy Wall Street movement), a note left by others read: “This act of vandalism was not authorized by the general assembly. Peaceful protest.” In another location where a window was broken, a follow-up protester left a sign saying: “We are better than this.”
ATMs were also painted black in some locations or tagged with graffiti saying “Withdraw Only.” Other tags seen around (i.e. at a smashed in Bank of America) read “Shut It Down” and “Class War.”
In a standoff with police today, one group of protesters sat on the ground in front of them and several even bowed their heads while doing so.
While police cleared some streets with flash bang grenades and tear gas, protesters continued marching peacefully in the streets (with gas masks or faces covered in cloth) and shouted “Whose streets? Our streets!” And isn’t that the message? This is not a movement, for the most part, focused on war and fighting. This is a movement focused on returning to the people what is rightfully the people’s, through just and peaceful means.
Evene Police Chief Howard Jordan noted that the few acts of vandalism were not the acts of the main protesters but a fringe group of radicals (wearing masks or handkerchiefs to possibly obscure their face and/or in preparation for police responses to their vandalism).