Wow ! This Occupy Wall Street is getting deeper and deeper with more things happening …
OAKLAND, Calif (Reuters) – A man was shot to death on Thursday near a downtown Oakland plaza where hundreds of anti-Wall Street activists have camped out for a month, stoking renewed calls by some city officials to evict the protesters.
Recent unrest surrounding the Oakland encampment has helped rally supporters of Occupy Wall Street nationwide, a movement launched in New York in September to protest economic inequality and excesses of the financial system.
But spokesmen for the so-called Occupy Oakland demonstrators were quick to deny that the shooting, which occurred at a public transit station at the edge of the plaza, had anything to do with the protest movement.
The Oakland police issued a brief statement saying only that officers responding to a report of a shooting adjacent to the plaza “found a victim suffering from a gunshot wound.”
The acting police chief, Howard Jordan, later told reporters at an impromptu news conference that investigators were “still trying to put the pieces together,” adding, “Obviously, for someone to lose a life, that’s a big deal.”
Protest organizers said the shooting was an example of gun violence that flares routinely in the city and accused municipal officials of adding to a sense of fear and insecurity by leaving street lights off around the plaza after dark over the past two nights.
“This was another case of violence in the streets of Oakland, and it’s going to be blamed on the occupation,” said Tim Simons, one of several protesters who speaks for the group. “But if the city really wants to make it a safe occupation, they wouldn’t shut off the lights.”
Another spokesman, Shake Anderson, told the Local ABC News affiliate, KGO-TV, “This has nothing to do with the occupation or what was going on politically. This was a street incident.”
He also suggested, however, that the person who died may have sought safety in the camp shortly before being shot.
“This is known throughout the world,” Anderson said. “This is also known to be a safe spot. So if somebody does wrong things in their community, they might want to come here, and this is not the place for that.”
BIGGEST FEAR REALIZED
In a separate KGO-TV interview, City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, said his “biggest fear has obviously happened.”
“I have been very, very vocal about the fact that we cannot allow this to continue, because lives and property losses are what’s at stake,” he said. “We have to end this occupation.”
The shooting comes at a time of tense relations between protesters who have set up a tent camp in the plaza and police who have already tried to forcibly remove them, efforts that have sparked confrontations.
Mayor Jean Quan has drawn withering criticism for her handling of previous attempts to shut down the encampment.
Police forcibly removed tents and drove protesters out of the plaza on October 25, only for demonstrators to return later that day to reclaim the public square outside City Hall in a clash with police that left one former Marine in the group badly injured by a tear gas canister.
Police and protesters clashed again the following week after a day of largely peaceful citywide rallies and marches that forced a brief shutdown of the Port of Oakland.
The circumstances of Thursday’s shooting remained unclear hours after the incident.
Occupy Oakland organizers posted a message online saying that a man was shot and killed just before 5 p.m. and that the group’s own medics were the first on the scene to assist him.
Six gunshots in rapid succession were audible in video footage posted online by KGO-TV.
Two protesters on the plaza at the time who did not give their names later told Reuters they had seen a group of young people arguing nearby about 20 minutes before they heard several shots fired, then saw crowds running away from that direction.