Shooting Deaths at Occupy Oakland and Occupy Burlington

Details are still sketchy but two men are dead in separate shootings at Occupy Oakland (California) and Occupy Burlington (Vermont).

Details are still sketchy but two men are dead in separate shootings at Occupy Oakland (California) and Occupy Burlington (Vermont).

San Francisco Chronicle (“Man shot to death near Occupy Oakland camp“):

A young man was fatally shot Thursday evening just yards from the Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall. And before the ambulance had even pulled away, people were debating whether the killing was somehow linked to the month-old gathering.

The man, whom several Occupy campers said they did not recognize, was shot in the head at about 5 p.m. outside a BART station exit in Frank Ogawa Plaza, at 14th Street and Broadway. He was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead, said interim Police Chief Howard Jordan.

Jordan – speaking to reporters over protesters who shouted, “This is not Occupy Oakland” – said two groups of people had gotten into a fight that ended when someone pulled out a gun and fired. Witnesses said they heard four to six shots, and saw several young men flee. No arrests have been made, and the dead man’s name has not been released.

The shooting happened in a busy section of downtown Oakland adjacent to the Occupy an encampment where drug use is prevalent, and where devoted protesters have increasingly struggled to control fights and robberies and deal with mentally ill homeless people.

Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who has repeatedly called for the camp’s removal, said, “Unfortunately, we will have no excuse for not taking action. This was escalating and was going to happen.”

Mayor Jean Quan held a news conference and announced that the city was planning, once again, to remove the Occupy camp.

“The risks are too great for having an encampment out there,” Quan said. “It’s time for the encampment to end.”

But in the plaza amphitheatre, dozens of people gathered after the shooting out of concern that it would be cited as another reason to tear down the camp. One speaker, whose words were then repeated and amplified by the group, said, “I live in Oakland, and this is a daily occurrence.”

Burlington Free Press (“After shooting city closes half of Occupy Burlington site, protesters gather at church“):

The city closed half of City Hall Park and put a halt to all camping at the Occupy Burlington site Thursday night while police investigate a shooting in a tent that cost a 35-year-old man his life. Meanwhile, the movement’s participants mourned a member of their community and planned the future of the encampment.

Just a day after the joyful spontaneity of a Gogol Bordello performance Wednesday night at City Hall Park, Thursday’s shooting that police believe may have been self-inflicted spiraled into a tense confrontation between Burlington police and some protesters over access to the park.

The evening culminated in this surreal scene nearly five hours after the shooting: Mayor Bob Kiss, standing hatless and coatless in a cold rain, talking a group of close to 100 City Hall Park occupiers down from a near riot.

Kiss had called a 6 p.m. meeting in City Hall’s Contois Auditorium to talk about modifications to the city’s rules for the encampment following the shooting, and Police Chief Michael Schirling told the large group that the tents would be off limits for at least 24 hours while police continued their investigation into the death of a man whose name has not yet been released.

It had been a good relationship between police and protesters since the encampment began Oct. 28, city officials said, but the death had changed the landscape in the park.

As Schirling began to explain that police would allow those who needed personal items from their tents to get them, after police checked them for evidence, a man rushed in shouting that police had arrested a protester and that police were blocking off the entire park. The crowd angrily pushed outside, chanting, “Let her go! Let her go! Let her go!”

The protesters pushed toward the officers detaining Hayley Mason, 23, of Burlington. It was not clear why she was detained.

Kiss waded into the crowd, speaking softly, trying to explain that the police weren’t ending the encampment but were trying to investigate the crime scene. The protesters began shouting, “Give us Hayley! Give us Hayley!”

It’s quite possible–likely even–that the first shooting has nothing to do with Occupy Oakland. The Occupy Burlington incident is more closely tied to the camp but may well just be where some sad sack decided to kill himself. But the incidents look to be tipping the scales toward enforcing reasonable laws against camping out in public spaces and away from granting extraordinary leeway to peaceful protests even when they’re technically breaking the law.

As noted previously, many of the Occupy encampments around the country, including the Occupy DC site near my office, have become havens for the homeless. As winter sets in, fewer bright-eyed twenty-somethings trying to convey a message about the violence inherent in the system are camping out and less savory characters are predominating. So, it’s time for Occupy to stop being about occupying, anyway.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bandit says:

    But the incidents look to be tipping the scales toward enforcing reasonable laws against camping out in public spaces and away from granting extraordinary leeway to peaceful protests even when they’re technically breaking the law.

    Peaceful protests with a rising death toll. Since the violence goes to the beginning of the movement when were they peaceful?

  2. john personna says:

    @bandit:

    How hard are the words “peaceful protest” to understand, really?

    Neither of these two deaths was “protest” related.

    Basically a “tent city” has “civic crime.”

  3. Rick Almeida says:

    If one shooting was “near” an encampment, is it really “at” the encampment?

    I am amazed that James and Doug, of all people, have finally found reasons to criticize the occupy protests.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Rick Almeida: I don’t see how I could have been more clear here:

    It’s quite possible–likely even–that the first shooting has nothing to do with Occupy Oakland. The Occupy Burlington incident is more closely tied to the camp but may well just be where some sad sack decided to kill himself.

    This isn’t a criticism of the protests. I’ve said over and over and over that protests, by their nature, attract a disproportionate amount of yahoos and that we shouldn’t judge a movement by its worst elements. The point of this post, other than to point to something very interesting going on in the news, is this:

    But the incidents look to be tipping the scales toward enforcing reasonable laws against camping out in public spaces and away from granting extraordinary leeway to peaceful protests even when they’re technically breaking the law.

    It’s analysis, not advocacy. The closest I get to the latter is this:

    As noted previously, many of the Occupy encampments around the country, including the Occupy DC site near my office, have become havens for the homeless. As winter sets in, fewer bright-eyed twenty-somethings trying to convey a message about the violence inherent in the system are camping out and less savory characters are predominating. So, it’s time for Occupy to stop being about occupying, anyway.

    But that’s been my contention from nearly the outset: That the protests are a good way of drawing attention to a problem and catalyzing support but that, in the end, the movement has to get beyond protests into specific policy demands, running candidates, and the like.

  5. Rick Almeida says:

    @James Joyner:

    The headline, James, and the first sentence of the post.

    One must read 80% of the post before seeing the qualification you bolded.

  6. Liberty60 says:

    Both incidents, like most involving violence and bad behavior at Occupy sites can be explained by other factors such as outside random criminals taking advantage of a free place to do their dirty work.

    However-
    The point I keep making to my local group is that insurgent groups need to keep in continuous motion, constantly opening new fronts, and providing new ways to grip public imagination and support.

    If we aren’t providing good news to the media, there are plenty of people who will be happy to provide bad news.

    Occupy needs to declare victory and move on to a new tactic.

  7. DROSE says:

    “havens for the homeless” If you want to protese the top 1% , don’t exclude the bottom 1% (T_T)

  8. DROSE says:

    protest

  9. Lomax says:

    Now the Occupiers have something to protest and do something about: the high crime rate in Oakland ! Get the word out: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more!”
    This could really start an outcry among the people of Oakland and they clean their city up of crime!
    When neighborhoods finally take back their neighborhoods and get rid of the hoodlums, things will change and crime will go way down..