* Iraq war veteran hit in the head by tear gas canister
* Tensions building in Atlanta, Orlando and Baltimore
(Updates Oakland protests, changes bylines, previous ATLANTA)
By Jim Christie and Noel Randewich
OAKLAND, Calif, Oct 26 Over 1,000 activists
protesting economic inequality and corporate greed massed on
Wednesday night in a downtown Oakland plaza from which they had
been evicted a day earlier in clashes with police that left 85
people arrested and one critically hurt.
The severe injury of Scott Olsen, 24, a former U.S. Marine
who friends said served two tours of duty in Iraq, became a
rallying cry among Occupy Wall Street supporters in Oakland and
elsewhere as organizers took to Twitter and other social media
urging protesters back into the streets.
In Portland, Oregon, a crowd estimated to number at least
1,000 joined in a march organized by the AFL-CIO labor
federation in support of the anti-Wall Street movement. And
Twitter buzz suggested the turnout may have gotten a boost from
outrage generated by news of the injured Oakland veteran.
Supporters in New York voted on Wednesday to send $20,000
and 100 tents to their peers in Oakland, according to a Twitter
message from a protester identified as J.A. Myerson and
re-tweeted by the Occupy Wall Street group.
The liberal activist group MoveOn.org said it was creating
a "rapid response ad" from video footage of the "brutal
crackdown" Tuesday night in which Olsen was hurt.
Rally organizers said Olsen was struck in the head by a
tear gas canister fired by police at protesters trying to move
back into a downtown plaza where a makeshift encampment had
been forcibly removed earlier.
A spokesman for Highland General Hospital in Oakland
confirmed Olsen was in critical condition from injuries
sustained in the protest but could not say how he was hurt.
Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told a news
conference his department was investigating the injury to Olsen
as a "level one" incident, the highest priority for an internal
He declined to confirm whether Olsen was struck with a
projectile fired by law enforcement but said Oakland police did
launch tear gas and so-called "bean bag" munitions on Tuesday
when demonstrators defied orders to disperse.
Jordan, acknowledging his department has received
complaints of excessive force during the protests, said his
officers were under orders to accommodate peaceful rallies and
marches. But he added that "no camping will be allowed
overnight" on public property.
The altercations erupted on Tuesday when about 1,000
activists sought to retake an outdoor plaza adjacent to City
Hall that police had cleared earlier that day. Police arrested
On Wednesday night, a crowd of at least 1,000 demonstrators
were allowed back into the square. Some immediately ripped down
a fence erected to close off a grassy area after authorities
had removed tents and sprayed disinfectant chemicals.
But the crowd was otherwise peaceful and activists met to
discuss strategy, including a proposal to call for a general
citywide "strike" next week. Except for a helicopter hovering
overhead, police remained absent from view.
BADLY HURT AFTER TWO TOURS IN IRAQ
Keith Shannon, who said he served with Olsen in Iraq, told
Reuters his friend suffered a 2-inch skull fracture and brain
swelling and had been sedated in the hospital's emergency room
trauma center while neurosurgeons decided whether to operate.
The hospital declined to comment on those medical details.
"The irony is not lost on anyone here that this is someone
who survived two tours in Iraq and is now seriously injured by
the Oakland police force," said his friend, Adele Carpenter,
who spoke to Reuters by phone from the hospital waiting room.
The "Occupy Wall Street" protests, which began in New York
City on Sept. 17, take issue with a financial system they say
benefits corporations and the wealthy. They are critical of
U.S. government bailouts of big banks, high unemployment and
Loosely organized protest groups have since sprung up
across the United States and in countries around the world.
Tensions were building in several cities where authorities have
been treading a fine line between allowing peaceful protest and
addressing concerns about trespassing, noise and safety.
In an early morning raid in Atlanta, police evicted dozens
of protesters from a downtown park and arrested 53 who refused
to leave. They were allowed to camp in the park for three weeks
but Mayor Kasim Reed said he decided to evict the protesters
because of fire code violations and crowd control issues.
In Orlando, demonstrators had been complying with orders to
vacate a park overnight and left their belongings, only to have
police confiscate the property. And in Baltimore, the city
ordered protesters to drastically reduce the number of people
who camped overnight from roughly 200 to two people in a single
tent. Protesters were given a Wednesday deadline to comply.
In the birthplace of the demonstrations, New York City,
authorities have largely averted confrontation. Over 700
protesters loudly but peacefully marched through lower
Manhattan on Wednesday to denounce for-profit healthcare.
The New York demonstrators are camped in a privately owned
park in the city's financial district, and Mayor Michael
Bloomberg has said there was little the city could do until the
park owners, Brookfield Office Properties, file a complaint.
(Additional reporting by Mary Slosson in Los Angeles, Barbara
Liston in Orlando, David Beasley in Atlanta, Dan Cook in
Portland, Jason Tomassini in Baltimore and Chris Francescani in
New York; Writing by Steve Gorman and Barbara Goldberg; Editing
by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)