Oakland Police Chief Defends Officers In Anti-Wall Street Clash

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Oakland’s police chief says he takes responsibility for a crackdown on anti-Wall Street protesters, who have accused police of seriously injuring an Iraq War veteran during a clash earlier this week.

See also: Michael Moore Visits Occupy Oakland

Interim Chief Howard Jordan’s comments came Friday as Occupy Wall Street protesters maintained demonstration sites in some California cities and left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore rallied a gathering in Oakland.

Jordan defended the officers involved in the effort to drive protesters from a dayslong encampment, saying they used what they believed to be the least amount of force possible to protect themselves.

“I want to ensure you that all allegations of misconduct and excessive uses of force are being thoroughly investigated,” Jordan said.

The plight of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, 24 – who remained hospitalized in fair condition with a fractured skull – has become a rallying cry at Occupy protests around the world.

Fellow veterans say police fired an object that struck him in the head, but authorities say object has yet to be definitively established, as well as the person responsible for the injury.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who on Thursday publicly apologized for Tuesday’s incident, said Friday that she did so because people got hurt.

Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore addressed about 1,000 anti-Wall Street protesters in front of Oakland’s City Hall, saying the Occupy movement has changed the national discussion.

“When was the last time in the last few weeks you heard them talking about the debt ceiling?” said Moore, the director of the documentary films “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and “Bowling for Columbine.”

Meanwhile, a protest encampment at a plaza near the City Hall grew to about 50 tents, with organizers saying up to a thousand people were in the area late Friday night with very few police in sight.

The Oakland protesters announced a general strike on Nov. 2 where they will be urging banks and corporations to close for the day.

Farther south, police in San Diego descended early Friday on the encampment that housed demonstrators at the Civic Center Plaza and Children’s Park for three weeks.

San Diego protester Chuck Stemke, a 32-year-old mechanical designer, said he awoke to a loud noise and looked out of his tent to see hundreds of police marching toward him in the darkness.

“It was very intimidating,” he said. “There was a huge show of force.”

Authorities arrested 51 people who faced charges including illegal lodging, illegal drug use, unlawful assembly and other charges. Twenty-four people were arrested on charges of blocking officers from performing their duties, police said.

San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne said negotiations with demonstrators had broken down and officers received no cooperation.

In the Central Valley, officials planned to evict a group of about 30 demonstrators from next to a Fresno County courthouse. The group agreed to officials’ request not to pitch tents at the site during their 20-day stay, and the county had so far been lenient with the encampment, said protest spokesman Ruben Verdugo.

But officials on Friday gave notice that the protesters’ permit would expire midnight Monday, and that demonstrators faced jail time and $500 fines if they remained.

Maria Torres stopped by the encampment to lend moral support. The 86-year-old said she worked with Cesar Chavez as an organizer of the farmworkers’ movement in the 1960s.

“I’m too old now to do much, but I want to be a part of it,” she said in Spanish.

Peaceful protests continued in San Francisco, where a handful of police officers patrolled the area across from the historic Ferry Building as 200 to 300 demonstrators gathered.

Mayor Ed Lee wants to avoid the type of police confrontations that happened in Oakland and has been meeting with members of the San Francisco camp to address concerns about public health and safety, said mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey.

“We can’t have the camp for too many more days because it’s not healthy,” Falvey said.

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