400 Occupy Oakland Protesters Arrested After Invading City Hall and Burning a U.S. Flag

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Occupy Oakland trying to shutdown the port last month. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/2011 AFP

Yesterday's chaotic showdown in Oakland marked one of the most serious clashes so far between Occupy Wall Street protesters and authorities in the months-long movement. According to some estimates, as many as 2,000 people marched through downtown Oakland while at the same time another group entered City Hall — where some burned an American flag they found inside — and yet another tried tearing down fences around the city's vacant convention center, which some protesters wanted to occupy. In all, the AP reports that nearly 400 people were arrested. "This is domestic terrorism and we cannot allow this to continue," one city councilman is quoted saying, "because something even more worse could really happen."

The Occupy Oakland Media Committee now says it may sue the city's police force for not giving protesters sufficient time to disperse; police also reportedly used smoke and tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and batons on the crowds. (The Oakland police made headlines in November for their harsh response to earlier protests, including razing the Occupy encampment.) Police counter that they were "pelted with bottles, metal pipe, rocks, spray cans, improvised explosive devices and burning flares," leaving at least three officers injured. Some protesters even came equipped with shields made from salvaged garbage cans.

Though things had quieted down today, authorities fear that protesters will try and act on their other plans, including shutting down Oakland's port and airport. "We suspect they will try to go to the convention center again," the city's police chief said. "They will get not get in."