Staff writers

OAKLAND -- About 1,000 people gathered peacefully Wednesday in the amphitheater in front of City Hall and spent several hours planning for a meeting Thursday to discuss the mechanics for a general strike next week.

After Tuesday night's violence, hundreds of Oakland residents appeared to have come out to help transform Occupy Oakland from a relatively disorganized, loose-knit movement to a broad-based community drive to implement a general strike.

What the protesters are hoping for is the support of unions, teachers, students and workers to shut down the city next Wednesday.

"I think the police brutality drew a lot of people out of the hills and into the streets," said Josh Chavanne, 29, a freelance Web designer from Oakland. "There is nothing like a little inhumanity to turn on people's humanity."

At Thursday's meeting, the protesters hope to work out the logistics of the strike, which would involve taking students out of schools, shutting down businesses and mobilizing demonstrators in the city center.

The Wednesday night meeting was far more organized and sophisticated than any previous Occupy Oakland activity since the movement started Oct. 10. At one point, organizers divided the crowd into small working groups of between 20 and 30 people to discuss the proposal for a general strike. After discussing concerns, they voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposal.


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"The vitality of Paris in May 1968 and the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe came from general strikes. If we shut down the city, there is no chance (the city leaders) won't hear us," Chavanne said.

Protesters said the proposed strike is the next step in the global Occupy Wall Street movement. They want to move their anger and dissatisfaction from the tent city encampment to a strike because they believe it will force government and corporate leaders to take them seriously.

"This is what Occupy Oakland needed to be from the beginning,'' said Adam Groszkiewicz, a student at the College of Alameda and a representative of Save Our Schools. "This is bringing out a more serious side of people, rather than just rage for rage's sake."

Wednesday's gathering was in stark contrast to the chaos of Tuesday, when the city dismantled the two-week old encampment at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, leading to clashes between hundreds of protesters and police, who used tear gas in attempts to disperse the crowd.

Protesters on Wednesday night took down a chain-link fence authorities had stationed around the plaza lawn and at one point erected at least one tent.

Mayor Jean Quan is taking heat for the decision to move on the encampment and the chaos that followed.

On Quan's Facebook page, at least 8,900 people have commented, many negatively, on a Tuesday morning statement commending police, firefighters and public works crews who "worked over the past week to peacefully close the encampment." Many comments call for Quan's ouster, call her unfit for office and say she should be ashamed of how police acted.

Quan said she did not know the raid would happen Tuesday morning, when she was on city business at the White House.

"I don't do the tactical planning," she said.

Plans to break up the camp began Oct. 20 after reports that campers denied access to medics called in to treat a woman who fell and needed medical attention. The tipping point, Quan said, was a news report that a man was beaten with a piece of lumber.

Interim police Chief Howard Jordan was told it would take five days to arrange for backup from other police agencies. By Saturday the health and safety conditions inside the camp had "devolved," said City Administrator Deanna Santana. Officials decided to stage the raid in the early morning, when the fewest people would be at the camp.

Jordan defended his officers, calling their performance "professional" during the protest.

Jordan said the Oakland Police Department's protocol for nonlethal weapons allows their use in volatile situations. 

He said Oakland police used bean bags and tear gas but do not use rubber bullets or wooden dowels. It is possible that other law enforcement agencies did, he said. More than a dozen agencies from across Northern California assisted Oakland police under a mutual aid agreement.

Meanwhile, the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday sent a public records request to the Oakland Police Department about use of force. They are calling for a full investigation and a stop to the use of force.

Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, 24, of Daly City, was injured in Tuesday's violence, suffering a fractured skull. He was taken to Highland Hospital, where he is in critical condition. Friends say he was hit in the head by a tear-gas canister.

Quan said she and Jordan are willing to meet with the protesters but must first determine who the leaders are.

They confirmed six to seven injuries occurred Tuesday night. Quan said the reason the police weren't on scene Wednesday because the dynamics are different. Tuesday night, the plaza was closed and police were charged with keeping protesters out. Wednesday night, the plaza was open and people were meeting peacefully.

Staff writers Angela Woodall, Thomas Peele, Rick Hurd, Matt Krupnick and Josh Richman contributed to this report.

To claim personal belongings from the Occupy Oakland encampment, call 510-615-5566