Image: Protester is arrested in Atlanta
David Goldman  /  AP
An anti-Wall Street protestor in Atlanta is arrested early Wednesday after refusing to leave a city park.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/26/2011 9:26:19 PM ET 2011-10-27T01:26:19

Police moved into a downtown Atlanta park and arrested around 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters who had been encamped there for about two weeks Wednesday, while across the country in Oakland, Calif., officers in riot gear stood watch after clashes there with demonstrators overnight.

Oakland demonstrators vowed on Wednesday to return to their protest site just hours after police cleared hundreds of people from the streets with tear gas and bean bag rounds. The city had erected a chain-link fence around the plaza in the morning, and workers were mowing the grass and sweeping up remnants of the encampment that was dismantled the day before. After the encampment was cleared Tuesday, protesters began marching toward City Hall in an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of the disbanded camp.

Officers also fired beanbag rounds, clearing out the encampment of protesters in less than an hour.

Story: Iraq war vet injured during Oakland protests

The site was among numerous camps that have sprung up around the country as protesters rally against what they see as corporate greed and a wide range of other economic issues. The protests have attracted a wide range of people, including college students looking for work and the homeless.

Video: Police fire tear gas on Oakland protesters (on this page)

Meanwhile, police on Wednesday closed the downtown Atlanta park, where police arrested dozens. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement that the arrests were made after protesters at Woodruff Park moved from peacefully demonstrating to "increasingly aggressive actions" in recent days.

Reed said one man had walked through the park with an assault rifle, and demonstrators had inserted wire hangers into electrical sockets to create additional power sources. Authorities did not say how long the park would remain closed.

Many gathered in the center of the park, locking arms, and sang "We Shall Overcome," until police led them out, one-by-one to waiting buses. Some were dragged out while others left on foot, handcuffed with plastic ties.

Story: Income of top 1 percent far outgrew others: report

Police included SWAT teams in riot gear, dozens of officers on motorcycles and several on horseback. By about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday the park was mostly cleared of protesters. Organizers had urged protesters to return in the morning, but by 8:30 a.m. it was still largely empty, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on its website.

The Occupy protests over economic inequality have spread from a single camp in New York City to cities across the United States and beyond since mid-September, overlapping with similar, earlier protests in Europe. An attempt earlier this month to clean the New York site, which protesters there feared was a tactic to shut them down, ended with authorities backing off.

Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort was among those arrested and had come to the park in support of the protesters in recent days. He said the police presence was "overkill."

"He's using all these resources ... This is the most peaceful place in Georgia," Fort said, referring to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "At the urging of the business community, he's moving people out. Shame on him."

Reed said that the protests cost the city about $300,000, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. 

Some protesters could be overheard saying they would return to the park at 6 a.m. Wednesday, when it would be legal for them to be there. TV images showed the number of police far outnumbering the protesters.

Scuffles with police
Oakland demonstrators vowed to return as well.

Feeding the movement: How Occupy protesters are eating

The number of protesters diminished with each round of gas, and by early Wednesday there were just a few dozen at the site of the clashes.

The last skirmish there Tuesday night came around 11:15 PT in front of City Hall, where a haze of chemical smoke still hung in the air. Earlier in the evening, the crowd had numbered around 1,000, according to SFGate.com. BART closed Oakland's 12th Street station because of tear gas deployment, KNTV reported.

Police established a presence in a plaza where a pre-dawn raid Tuesday dismantled an encampment of Occupy Wall Street protesters that had dominated the area for more than two weeks.

Authorities removed about 170 demonstrators who had been staying in the area overnight after repeatedly being warned that such a camp was illegal and they faced arrest by remaining. City officials said 97 people were arrested in the morning raid.

The first evening scuffle broke out after several hundred people made their way back to City Hall in an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of the disbanded camp.

The protesters had gathered at a downtown library, marched toward City Hall and ultimately were met by police officers in riot gear. Several small skirmishes broke out and officers cleared the area by firing tear gas.

Video: Police in riot gear clear Occupy Oakland

The scene has repeated itself several times since. But each time officers move to disperse the crowd, protesters quickly gather again in assemblies that authorities have declared illegal. Tensions rise as protesters edge closer to police line and climax when someone throws a bottle or rock and authorities response with volleys of gas.

Police have denied reports that they used flash bang canisters to help break up the crowds, saying the loud noises came from large firecrackers thrown at police by protesters.

Protesters defiant
Helicopters scanned the area late Tuesday and scores of officers wearing helmets and carrying clubs patrolled the streets. Fire crews responded to small blazes in trash containers.

Protesters moved about uneasily even as one used a bull horn to express his resolve.

"This movement is more than just the people versus the police," Mario Fernandez said. "It's about the people trying to have their rights to basic services."

Image: Occupy Oakland protesters run from tear gas deployed by police at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland, Calif.
Darryl Bush  /  AP
Occupy Oakland protesters run from tear gas deployed by police at 14th Street and Broadway on Tuesday.

He added, "This crowd isn't going anywhere anytime soon."

Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters at a late night news conference that authorities had no other choice, saying the protesters were throwing rocks and bottles at officers.

"We had to deploy gas to stop the crowd," he said, according to a KCBS report.

City officials say that two officers were injured. At least five protesters were arrested and several others injured in the evening clashes.

In Oakland, tensions between the city and protesters have been escalating since last week as officials complained about what they described as deteriorating safety, sanitation and health issues at the site of the dismantled camp.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Quiet in Oakland after police, ‘Occupy’ protesters clash

  1. Transcript of: Quiet in Oakland after police, ‘Occupy’ protesters clash

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: As we just heard here again tonight, student debt is one of the big concerns of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement. And is Oakland , California , 85 people were arrested yesterday morning when police evicted them. Some were complaining about what they said were heavy-handed tactics used by police who used tear gas and fired bean bag rounds into the crowd during the predawn raid. Later in the day, things got even worse. Our own Miguel Almaguer is standing by in Oakland for us tonight. Miguel , good evening.

    MIGUEL ALMAGUER reporting: Brian , good evening. Oakland is relatively quiet tonight, so far. This plaza has been home to demonstrators who have been protesting against corporate greed and other issues for the two weeks, but last night that protest came to an end after a clash between police and demonstrators. Mayhem, violence and blood spilled onto Oakland streets. Occupy Oakland protesters and police faced off for six hours. This after an early morning raid by hundreds of police officers forced nearly 300 demonstrators from their Occupy Oakland camp.

    Unidentified Man: What this is is a gathering of working people trying to reverse a situation that has occurred that has kicked them out of their homes.

    ALMAGUER: Tear gas was volleyed into the air.

    Unidentified Woman: They just started shooting off. And then after -- even the fact that everybody left, they kept shooting.

    ALMAGUER: As police say rocks, bottles, even small explosives were thrown at them. More than 100 were arrested as the late-night crowd swelled to nearly a thousand.

    Mr. HOWARD JORDAN (Oakland police Department Chief): The decision to move was based on public health and safety due to defecation, fire hazards, sexual assault incidents, violent behavior and a denial of access of medical aid.

    ALMAGUER: Oakland wasn't the only city trying to move out protesters. Across the country in Atlanta ...

    Group of People: Occupy Atlanta!

    ALMAGUER: ...police in riot gear arrested 50 overnight. In Denver , occupiers were digging in. Even snow and the threat of hypothermia didn't deter demonstrators there. But overseas in London , one newspaper investigation claims protesters often go home at night. Thermal images on the Daily Mail 's website show most of these tents in purple appear to be empty. Back in this country, the occupy protests have cost cities money and resources. In Los Angeles , the mayor says the bill so far is $60,000. And tonight there seems to be no end to the protests in sight. As a matter of fact, here in Oakland in just few hours, protesters say they plan to, quote, "Reclaim and retake this plaza." Police say they'll be ready to square off. As a matter of fact, in San Francisco , Brian , crowds are also expected to show up in the plaza center across the bay.

    WILLIAMS: Miguel Almaguer in the Bay Area of California for us tonight. Miguel , thanks.

Data: Occupy Wall Street

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