Shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, a man was shot to death in Frank Ogawa Plaza, near Broadway and 14th Streets and just yards away from the Occupy Oakland encampment. The evening, which had been intended to be a celebration of the camp's first month in existence, took on a somber mood as police descended on the plaza.
The man was involved in an argument when his opponent pulled a gun and fired several shots. Eyewitnesses said the man was shot in the head and chest. Amidst the frenzy that followed, Occupy Oakland's own medics were the first to respond. The man was removed from the square in an ambulance and died shortly thereafter. Occupiers theorized that the fight may have been a continuation of an earlier argument that occurred at the camp, over a bicycle, and asked that other protesters "see these things going on and mediate."
This shooting follows on the heels of a gun-inflicted suicide
at the Occupy Burlington protest just hours earlier. The victim was a 35-year-old veteran of the Iraq war.
The deaths have created a serious PR debate among those at Occupy Oakland, who fear that their camp will be held falsely responsible for the shooting. The general assembly stated, "The violence that happened today was related [to the movement] only in that it is a part of the system we are trying to move beyond." Some speakers in the general assembly called for the group to approach the media and address the incident, while others cautioned against "showboating for the press."
This fear of misrepresentation has generated a growing tension between occupiers and the press. Protesters smeared camera lenses with Vaseline
during the anti-capitalist march on Nov. 2 to prevent photography and filming, and Channel 7 cameraman Randy Davis was attacked
by a crowd as he attempted to film the aftermath of last night's shooting.
Although Mayor Quan had allowed protesters to re-enter Frank Ogawa Plaza after their eviction on Oct. 25, she called for them to leave voluntarily yesterday, saying, "Tonight's incident underscores the reason why the encampment must end. The risks are too great."
But Occupy Oakland doesn't have plans to leave. The general assembly called for a peace march today, Friday, and requested that all participants wear white. "This is why we're here," a woman in the general assembly said of the shooting. "This is Oakland. They need us. We need us."
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