OAKLAND -- Hundreds of protesters gathered peacefully Thursday night to mark the anniversary of Occupy Oakland, marching for miles through the city's downtown before reconvening at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza to reminisce over the past year.
Friday morning, there was no sign of the vandalism on downtown streets that accompanied protests a year ago, and merchants who had braced for the worst began removing boards from store windows.
At one point during Thursday's march, protesters faced off against dozens of officers clad in riot gear outside Oakland police headquarters, but the marchers quickly peeled off and headed back to the plaza. Two arrests were made, including one person arrested on suspicion of throwing a rock at officers, but the rally, marking the anniversary of a police raid on the original Occupy encampment at Ogawa Plaza, was otherwise uneventful.
Starting at 7 p.m., as many as 200 people snaked their way through downtown Oakland, to Lake Merritt, into Chinatown and then to the police department offices. The march took protesters on a walking tour of the sites of previous clashes between Occupy members and police.
By 9 p.m., marchers were back at the plaza, had a drum circle going and were watching a slideshow projected onto a sheet of photos of past protests. By 11 p.m., the crowd had dwindled to about 30 people, listening to music and milling about the plaza.
Throughout the earlier activity, police kept close tabs on
Police blocked roads so the crowd could pass safely and the march, at points, seemed celebratory, with a marcher broadcasting the score of the Giants World Series game over a loudspeaker.
One person was arrested about 9:10 p.m., with officers alleging that he threw a rock at them during the march. The man, identified 29-year-old Alexander Loutsis of Manteca, was arrested at Ogawa Plaza after an incident officers said occurred about 40 minutes earlier, as marchers were passing the intersection of 8th Street and Broadway. The rock struck an officer in the chest, but he was not hurt, police said. The man was wearing a mask at the time, police said.
Loutsis, who was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, denied throwing the rock. He told police he was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and was attending technical school in Lathrop on the G.I. Bill.
Another arrest was made about 11 p.m., when a man was taken into custody on suspicion of obstructing an officer and possession of a cocaine-based narcotic, police said. His name was not immediately released.
The two arrests followed a day of rallies, speeches and a community meal in Frank Ogawa Plaza, with dozens of police and private security guards watching protesters' every move. Oakland police sent out several messages saying violence would not be tolerated during the day's events.
After the protest, Mayor Jean Quan said police acted professionally and helped keep the march peaceful. "I'm pleased that the vast majority of the protesters remained peaceful as well," Quan said. "Tonight shows how far we've all come since last year and how much we've learned as we worked together to improve public safety in general."
Although the gathering and march were peaceful, anti-police chants were heard loud and clear.
In the crowd was Scott Thomas Olsen, a young veteran who last year was struck in the head with a tear-gas canister during protests following the Oct. 25, 2011, raid on the camp. Olsen was being pushed in a wheelchair stemming from an accident unrelated to his injury last year.
As the events began Thursday afternoon, Samsarah Morgan said she was in the plaza to celebrate the "rebirth" of the Occupy movement, while pointing out that she is not part of the "official" movement. She said her group condemned violence.
"We ask for peace tonight," Morgan said.
Earlier this month, a flier was distributed downtown urging people to bring bats to stand up and "defend Oakland." The flier said that people should plan to "beat the (expletive) out of anarchists and vandals" during the anniversary events.
The day, however, was mostly low key.
That was in stark contrast to one year ago when at least 200 police, many in riot gear, tore down an Occupy Oakland encampment of more than 100 tents in front of City Hall and arrested dozens of people. A smaller camp near the lake was also dismantled in the early morning hours of Oct. 25, 2011.
Those raids sparked a day of protests that continued into the early morning of Oct. 26, when as many as 1,000 people marched throughout downtown Oakland. The rally quickly turned violent, and police fired bean-bag rounds and tear gas to disperse protesters who sometimes threw bottles and rocks at officers. It was shortly after that Olsen, 24, of Daly City, was struck with the tear-gas canister.
That night, protesters set up a second encampment at Ogawa Plaza, which they named Oscar Grant Plaza, after Oscar Grant who was killed by BART police in 2009. The second camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza grew to several hundred tents before it was again dismantled by police on Nov. 14, 2011.
Since then, groups affiliated with Occupy have staged numerous protests and rallies throughout downtown Oakland, several of which led to broken windows, vandalism and mass arrests.
Occupy supporter Dafina Kuficha called the vandals cowards and blamed them for making people look at Occupy Oakland as a disjointed, violent movement.
"We are standing for positive change," Kuficha said.