Riots consume Oakland

By Staff Report

What began as a peaceful gathering of people hoping to see President Barack Obama last night… What began as a peaceful gathering of people hoping to see President Barack Obama last night became an 8-hour-long protest-turned-riot that damaged Oakland businesses and prompted police to use force.

About 50 people gathered near the bridge to Schenley Park at 4 p.m. yesterday to see Obama’s motorcade drive to the Phipps Conservatory.

The Obamas were hosting a working dinner in the greenhouse for the other G-20 leaders and their spouses. It was a precurser to the G-20 Summit, which officially opens tomorrow.

The gathering was peaceful until additional protesters joined the original group at around 6 p.m. Police sent in reinforcements as the crowd grew and placed caution tape near the traffic light at the bridge to Schenley Park.

Demonstrators ripped the tape and began leap-frogging over one another and toward the police.

Police declared the event an “unlawful assembly” and warned protesters, in both English and Spanish, that if they didn’t leave, they could be arrested or “subject to other police action.”

When the people didn’t move, police launched a smoke bomb into the group.

It was the first of many times police would fire gas or smoke into the crowds, which eventually grew to include hundreds of, if not more than 1,000 people.

The crowd simmered down for a few hours after the initial smoke bomb, at one point dancing to music provided by the Pittsburgh Hare Krishnas.

“It’s imposible for us to be stronger than them. They’ve sticks and shields, but we’ve got voices and we can all sing and be louder than them,” said one man, who claimed to be a chaitanya, or leader, of the Hare Krishnas.

Other groups began protesting around 10 p.m.

People marching dressed in all black and wearing bandanas weaved their way throughout Oakland screaming, “We’re here. We’re queer. We have no fear.”

Many other people, most of whom looked college-aged, joined the march.

Some of the protesters used bricks to bash in windows to McDonald’s, Kinko’s, The Pitt Shop, Pamela’s and Bruegger’s among other businesses. They also lit Dumpsters on fire.

The group eventually joined the people protesting in Schenley Plaza and around the Cathedral of Learning.

They showed up just in time to hear the police once again declare the event an “unlawful assembly,” at 10:37 p.m. over a loud speaker system.

Police threw more than 30 canisters of gas into the crowds, which were now dominated by mostly college-aged people. Police surrounded the Cathedral around 11:30 p.m. and eventually covered the lawn of the William Pitt Union. At one point, they marched through the Schenley Quadrangle and onto Towers patio.

Popping sounds could be heard from the Union.

After one round of the sounds, two people laid on the ground, one of them over the Pitt logo on Forbes Avenue.

Officers with batons hovered over one of the people, who took several minutes to stand up.

Police eventually handcuffed both men.

The police had said they would use “less lethal weapons” on people who wouldn’t disperse. City police officers in Zone 4, which covers Oakland, declined to comment last night.

One ACLU volunteer said he was disappointed in the way the police handled the protests.

“They are just kids,” said Dave Ninehouser, an ACLU legal observer. “They need to call their parents and cry bloody murder.”

Visit for more photos of the night’s demonstrations.