Occupy Oakland turned violent on Thursday morning, when some protesters clashed with police, injuring several policemen and other demonstrators.. As Elizabeth Flock reported:

Despite violent clashes between the police and protesters last week, Wednesday’s march remained mostly peaceful, until about 2 a.m. when some skirmishes broke out, and around 40 people were arrested, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Police used tear gas and some protesters reported rubber bullets being fired into the crowd. Some small groups of protesters broke the windows of banks and set trash on fire. The Associated Press reports, “At least four protesters were hospitalized Thursday with various injuries, including one needing stitches after fighting with an officer, police said. Several officers were also injured but didn’t need hospitalization.”

Oakland has become an epicenter of activity in the anti-big bank protests, moving the attention from Wall Street in New York to the West Coast city. Solidarity marches were held in other cities on Wednesday and hundreds of civil employees, including around 300 teachers, joined the protests. While some business shut after the protests rallied in front of the buildings, others shut down to show solidarity with the movement.

Steve Fainaru, who has been in the Occupy Oakland crowd and witnessed the sometimes violent stand-offs between the Occupy protesters and police, will be talking with readers online at 3 p.m.

Protesters shut down the Port of Oakland late on Wednesday and declared victory, even as the police closed in after the protests turned violent. As AP explained:

Occupy Wall Street protesters declared victory after thousands of demonstrators shut down one of the nation’s busiest shipping ports late Wednesday, escalating a movement whose tactics had largely been limited to marches, rallies and tent encampments since it began in September.

As a voice over a bullhorn said “The night is not over, yet,” protest organizers told demonstrators to head back to the downtown plaza where the Oakland movement has been based for more than a month.

The nearly 5-hour protest at the port the nation’s fifth-busiest shipping port, was intended to highlight a daylong “general strike” in the city, which prompted solidarity rallies in New York, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation.

The demonstrations at the port were largely peaceful and police said there were no arrests.

Police estimated that a crowd of about 3,000 had gathered at the port at the height of the demonstration around dusk. Some had marched from the city’s downtown, while others had been bused to the port.

The crowd disrupted operations by overwhelming the area with people and blocking exits with chain-link fencing and illegally parked vehicles. The demonstrators also erected fences to block main streets to the port. No trucks were allowed into or out of the area.

Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said evening operations had been “effectively shut down.”

On Thursday, the protesters decried the violence of the previous night and pledged to protest peacefully. As AP reported:

Occupy Wall Street supporters who staged rallies that shut down the nation’s fifth-busiest port during a day of protests condemned on Thursday the demonstrators who clashed with police in the latest flare-up of violence in Oakland, Calif.

Riot police arrested dozens of protesters in the city’s downtown, where bands of demonstrators threw chunks of concrete and metal pipes as well as lit roman candles and firebombs, police said. At least four protesters and several officers were injured.

“I think it will allow detractors to criticize the movement,” protester Hale Nicholson said.

The protest outside the Port of Oakland, which reopened Thursday, represented an escalation in tactics as a movement that had largely been about marches, rallies and tent camps targeted a major symbol of the nation’s commerce.

The violence that followed, however, raised questions about the direction of the movement and whether the clashes, so far mostly isolated in a city with a history of tensions between residents and police, will galvanize protesters or hurt their cause.

Nicholson blamed the violence on a small group of young people just there for violence — “Some kids looking to blow off some steam.”

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