* Organizers say they want to shut down city next week
* Police chief says department investigating incident
* Crowd cheers call for mayor, police chief resignation
(Updates with candlelight vigil, adds quotes)
By Peter Henderson
OAKLAND, Calif, Oct 27 An Iraq war veteran
badly wounded in clashes between protesters and police on the
streets of Oakland was awake and lucid, hospital officials and
family members said on Thursday.
Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old former U.S. Marine struck in the
head during Wall Street protests on Tuesday night, had been
upgraded from critical to fair condition overnight.
Olsen's injury has become a rallying cry for the Occupy
Wall Street movement nationwide, and Oakland organizers said
they would stage a general strike over what a spokeswoman
called the "brutal and vicious" treatment of protesters,
including the young Iraq war veteran.
At the downtown plaza where he was hurt, several hundred
supporters turned out Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in
which fellow activists from a group called Iraq War Veterans
for Peace addressed the crowd. One drew loud cheers when he
said the police chief or mayor should resign.
Olsen "responded with a very large smile" to a visit from
his parents, Highland General Hospital spokesman Warren Lyons
said at a late-afternoon press conference on Thursday.
"He's able to understand what's going on. He's able to
write and hear, but has a little difficulty with his speech,"
He said doctors had not operated on Olsen yet and were
waiting to see if swelling in his brain eased.
Olsen's aunt, Kathy Pacconi, told Reuters in an email that
her nephew was showing signs of improvement.
"I believe he knew his mom and dad were there, and tomorrow
he'll be really happy to see his sister, Melissa, because they
are really close. Hopefully, he'll start to improve with her
visit," Pacconi said.
Occupy Oakland organizers said their strike, scheduled for
next Wednesday, was intended to shut down the city.
'SHUT THE CITY DOWN'
"We mean nobody goes to work, nobody goes to school, we
shut the city down," organizer Cat Brooks said. "The only thing
they seem to care about is money and they don't understand that
it's our money they need. We don't need them, they need us."
Spokeswomen for the city of Oakland and Mayor Jean Quan
could not be reached for comment.
Brooks said a general strike was a "natural progression"
following a crackdown by the city of Oakland early on Tuesday
morning in which protesters were evicted from a plaza near city
hall and 85 people were arrested.
Protesters sought to retake that plaza on Tuesday night and
were repeatedly driven back by police using stun grenades and
tear gas. It was during one of those clashes that protesters
say Olsen was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired
The hospital has confirmed Olsen was hurt during the
protest, but could not say how he was wounded. Acting Oakland
Police Chief Howard Jordan had told a news conference his
department was investigating the incident.
He said police had fired tear gas and bean-bag projectiles
when protesters defied orders to disperse. He also said that
some demonstrators had pelted police with rocks and bottles.
Olsen is believed to be the most seriously wounded person
yet in confrontations between police and activists since Occupy
Wall Street protests began last month in New York.
News of his injury ignited a furor among supporters of the
protests. Activists in Oakland and elsewhere took to Twitter
and other social media urging demonstrators back into the
streets en masse.
More than 1,000 protesters moved onto the streets of
Oakland again on Wednesday night as police largely kept their
At Thursday's vigil, Emily Yates, an Army veteran of two
tours in Iraq, urged restraint by police and protesters.
"The police claim they were just doing their job. It's all
of our job to think before we throw anything at each other,"
Steve Morse, 65, a Vietnam War veteran, drew a hearty cheer
when he called for the resignation of either Police Chief
Jordan or Mayor Quan, both widely criticized as having bungled
the city's response to the Occupy Oakland movement.
Organizers said Quan had been invited in an open letter to
address the vigil, but she was not present.
Friends say Olsen had been active in several anti-war
veterans groups and had joined Oakland protesters in a gesture
of solidarity after learning of the police crackdown there.
Keith Shannon, 24, who said he served with Olsen in Iraq,
told Reuters his friend suffered a two-inch skull fracture.
Olsen served two tours in Iraq from 2006 to 2010 with the
3rd battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Shannon said, adding that
he and Olsen deployed together and were assigned to a tactical
(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb, Mary Slosson and Emmett
Berg; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton and