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Oakland Clashes With Wall Street Protesters Come With Costs

Occupy Oakland protesters who shut down the port yesterday and fought with police are costing the California city money.

“It will bite heavily into our overtime fund, and that takes away services from the community,” Mayor Jean Quan said today at a briefing for reporters, without giving details.

The demonstrators calling themselves Occupy Oakland, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, are protesting economic inequality, unemployment and what they call corporate greed. Oakland has become a hotbed for the demonstrations after an Iraq war veteran was hospitalized last week following a face-off between police and the protesters.

The Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth-busiest container-handler, reopened after protesters blocked gates during a day of demonstrations yesterday that drew about 7,000 people to the city east of San Francisco.

“The Port of Oakland is now fully operational,” spokesman Robert Bernardo said in a statement today. “Workers in the maritime area of the port continue to return to their jobs and seaport operations are returning to normal.”

Police in riot gear clashed with small groups in downtown Oakland about midnight local time, Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said today. Some demonstrators broke into a building, set fires and hurled rocks and bottles at officers, he said. Five civilians and three officers were injured, and about 80 people were arrested, Jordan said.

Some businesses were vandalized, with “major damage” occurring at branches of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., as well as a Whole Foods Market Inc. store, Jordan said.

New York Protests

In New York, police yesterday removed metal fences that blocked pedestrians from walking down Wall Street and other passages in the city’s financial district.

“Increasingly you’re seeing that the community, residents and businesses in lower Manhattan feel that they are the ones that are being occupied,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday. “This isn’t an occupation of Wall Street; it’s the occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood.” The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

In Oakland, protest organizers had called for a general strike. The demonstrations prompted hundreds of downtown workers to stay home or leave their jobs early.

Chain-Link Fence

At the port, protesters temporarily erected a chain-link fence blocking an entrance at 3rd and Adeline Street. Truck traffic was temporarily diverted. Early today, six protesters voluntarily removed the fence and trucks and employees were able to enter.

Kimberley Schroder, 24, of Oakland, said the bulk of protesters in the city are peaceful. “There will always be some violent people,” she said. “Everybody is part of this movement, but they are the fringe.”

Longshoremen on overnight shifts were told not to report to work because of the demonstration, according to Marilyn Sandifur, a spokeswoman for the port.

The facility’s terminals last year moved goods that would fill 2.33 million containers each 20 feet (six meters) by eight feet, according to an analysis by Citigroup Inc.

The port took in 4.4 percent of all U.S. imports, according to John Husing, founder of Economics & Politics Inc., a Redlands, California, consulting company.

“Containers can easily be shifted to other West Coast ports,” Husing said by telephone today. “All of them are huge operations.”

‘Little Impact’

“We expect very little impact to inland volume flows,” Citigroup said in a statement.

Yesterday, as the crowd in the downtown Frank Ogawa Plaza assembled, it blocked traffic in all directions and forced the rerouting of buses, according to a media advisory from the city.

Almost 300 of the city’s 2,000 teachers were absent yesterday or took personal leave, which is paid, according to Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District. Schools summoned substitutes, drew workers from other departments and in a small number of cases consolidated classes to make up for the missing teachers.

Maria Lepe, 26, of San Francisco, who teaches at an Oakland middle school, said she was demonstrating for “more support for teachers” and smaller class sizes.

“I did not expect thousands and thousands of people,” Lepe said in an interview. “The crowd keeps growing. I’m glad the word has gotten out. We’re all in this together to get our voice out.”

Susan George, 56, a holistic health practitioner who lives in West Oakland, carried a sign that read, “The people are too big to fail.”

“Our politicians have sold out to Wall Street interests,” she said.

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