The confrontation between the participants of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the authorities has reached a new level of violence. About 300 people were arrested in Oakland, California as a result of a clash between the demonstrators and the riot police. The initiative of the protesters to take over a disused convention centre in an attempt to draw public attention to the problems of the homeless was met with tear gas and flash grenades and police batons. The unreasonably violent reaction of the authorities has brought the issue of the protests back into the spotlight and once again questioned the vaunted democratic principles of the US government.
The wave of protests that spread across the country like a forest fire last year, vividly demonstrated that American citizens were fed up with empty promises of the government. The deepening economic crisis, collapsing job market and the insolence of the bank elite left Americans no other choice but go out on the streets. One of the main causes of the nationwide protests became the absolute inability of the President to stand up to the expectations of the social groups which had brought him to the White House. Middle class, students and young professionals found themselves facing the rapidly growing debts, lack of decent jobs and total indifference of the government.
“When the financial meltdown happened, there was a feeling that, "Wow, things are going to change. Obama is going to pass all kinds of laws, and we are going to have a different kind of banking system, and we are going to take these financial fraudsters and bring them to justice," – said Kalle Lasn – the founder of the Adbusters – a not-for-profit, anti-consumerist organization, believed to be one of the main inspirers of the protests. When the hopes for the Obama’s interference turned out to be empty, the protest actions started to spread across the nation.
By the end of 2011 the movement was almost quenched after the police had cleared most of the protesters’ camps from city centers. The Oakland incident put the Occupy Movement back in the centre of public attention raising reasonable questions about the lawfulness of the authorities’ reaction.
An attempt by the protesters to take over the disused building of Henry Kaiser convention centre led to the violent attack of the police, which used tear gas and flash grenades. About 300 people were arrested and at least 3 policemen and one demonstrator were injured.
As usual the city officials prefer to blame the protesters. "Once again, a violent splinter group of the Occupy movement is engaging in violent actions against Oakland – said the mayor, Jean Quan, The Bay Area Occupy Movement has got to stop using Oakland as their playground." The official statement made by Oakland police also denies the accusations of over-reaction.
"Officers were pelted with bottles, metal pipes, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares. The Oakland police department deployed smoke and tear gas," says the statement, "The city of Oakland welcomes peaceful assembly and freedom of speech but acts of violence, property destruction and overnight lodging will not be tolerated."
However, the bond of trust has already been repeatedly broken by the previous actions of the police, including the infamous pepper-spray incident, when a police officer sprayed the gas in the faces of seated peaceful demonstrators. The Occupy Movement is regaining power and this fact demonstrates that even the police violence can’t stop American citizens from expressing their discontent with the policy of the government and authorities.
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