Michael Moore rallies Occupy Oakland protest

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Police arrest Occupy Nashville protestors early Friday near the state Capitol.John Partipilo / The Tennessean via AP
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore told hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters in front of Oakland's City Hall on Friday that the events there over the past week have helped change the national discussion about the movement.

Moore, who flew in from New York, said the Occupy demonstrations are "a movement of equals," and that everyone had something to offer.

The director of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine" said the movement will not tolerate violence against demonstrators, referring to Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was badly injured during a clash between protesters and police.

Moore urged the protesters, many of whom are demonstrating against what they see as a growing disparity between rich and poor, to continue their movement until they run the country.

Police overnight cleared out protesters in Nashville, Tenn., and San Diego, Calif., as other Occupy encampments came under growing pressure from authorities to abandon sites in parks and plazas.

On Thursday night, a crowd of at least 1,000 people, many holding candles, gathered in honor of 24-year-old Scott Olsen, who is hospitalized with a fractured skull after a clash with police.

In New York City, which could see its first snow on Saturday, the fire department confiscated six generators and about a dozen cans of fuel at the Occupy site in Zuccotti Park. The generators had been powering heat, computers and a kitchen that activists set up six weeks ago.

"They think that taking the 'power' away will take the power away, and that's absolutely not true at all," said Occupy Wall Street spokesman Michael Booth.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the generators were confiscated because they were considered a safety hazard and it was not a bid to remove protesters.

"As long as they don't take away anybody else's rights to say what they want to say, or to not say anything, to go about their business safely ... at the moment it will continue," Bloomberg told local radio.

In San Diego, police arrested 51 people as officers cleared out economic demonstrators who occupied the Civic Center Plaza and Children's Park for three weeks. Dozens of police officers and San Diego County sheriff's deputies descended on the encampment around 2:30 a.m. Friday, declared an unlawful assembly and removed tents, canopies, tables and other furniture.

Occupy Nashville protesters defied a new curfew a day after they were forced off the Tennessee Capitol grounds because a new curfew was set.

Several dozen people remained on the grounds after the new curfew passed Friday at 10 p.m. There was no noticeable police presence and it was not immediately clear whether authorities planned to make arrests if the protesters stayed throughout the night.

Twenty-nine protesters were taken into custody at shortly after 3 a.m. Some were dragged from the campsite they've occupied for about three weeks.

Those arrested were taken to Davidson County Night Court for booking, but were freed by Night Court Commissioner Thomas Nelson.

"You have no lawful basis to arrest and charge those people," Nelson said to state troopers.

"For three weeks they've sat up there and protested under no admonition whatsoever that they were violating state policy regarding camping out on Legislative Plaza or that they were committing a crime."

He said he understood that the state had changed its policy on Thursday, but "they (the protesters) have to be given the opportunity to comply with those rules."

The action — a line of 75 troopers swept through the camp after giving a 10-minute warning — came less than a day after the state's Department of General Services said the plaza and other public areas nearby would be subject to a curfew, with no occupation between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Protesters had asked the state on Wednesday for more help with security. There has been some theft from tents as well as reports of marijuana being sold and lewd behavior in the area.

Occupy Nashville protesters blamed those incidents on a homeless population that has joined them on the plaza because of the availability of free blankets and food.

The demonstrators face charges of criminal trespassing Nov. 18 in General Sessions Court. Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons defended the sweep, saying troopers took the appropriate action.

"The process was handled by state troopers in a professional manner and without incident," he said in a statement to the press.

"It is our responsibility to keep the protesters safe on state property, along with citizens who work, live and enjoy downtown. We all must work together to ensure a safe environment."

He said the early hour for the raid was chosen because it would be least disruptive for those who work, visit and live downtown. Protesters plan a rally Friday evening.

Other developments
Elsewhere across the United States:

  • Protesters at San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza braced for a police raid early Thursday that never came. Still, police have warned the protesters that they could be arrested on a variety of sanitation or illegal camping violations.
  • Officials told protesters in Providence, R.I., that they were violating multiple city laws by camping overnight at a park.
  • Anti-Wall Street protesters camped out in downtown Los Angeles said they're planning to continue their demonstration indefinitely, although both they and the mayor's office were eyeing alternate sites.

On Thursday night, many in the crowd in Oakland shooed away Mayor Jean Quan who retreated back into City Hall after trying to address them during a tense late-night appearance. She apologized to Olsen during a hospital visit earlier Thursday.

"I am deeply saddened about the outcome on Tuesday. It was not what anyone hoped for, ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened," Quan said in a written statement to protesters late Thursday. "I cannot change the past, but I want to work with you to ensure that this remains peaceful moving forward."

Protesters also held a vigil for Olsen in Las Vegas, which drew a handful of police officers. Afterward, protesters invited them back for a potluck dinner.

"We renewed our vow of nonviolence," organizer Sebring Frehner said.

The Marine veteran, who won medals in Iraq, has become a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators across the nation, with Twitter users and protest websites declaring, "We are all Scott Olsen."

Joshua Shepherd, 27, a Navy veteran who was standing nearby when Olsen got struck, called it a cruel irony that Olsen is fighting an injury in the country that he fought to protect.

Despite the financial underpinnings of the protests, Olsen himself wasn't taking part out of economic need.

His friends say he makes a good living as a network engineer and has a nice apartment overlooking San Francisco Bay. Still, he felt so strongly about economic inequality in the United States that he fought for overseas that he slept at a protest camp after work.

"He felt you shouldn't wait until something is affecting you to get out and do something about it," said friend and roommate Keith Shannon, who served with Olsen in Iraq.

It was that feeling that drew him to Oakland on Tuesday night, when the clashes broke out and Olsen's skull was fractured. Fellow veterans said Olsen was struck in the head by a projectile fired by police, although the exact object and who might have been responsible for the injury have not been definitively established. Officials are investigating exactly where the projectile came from.