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Oakland crackdown worries protesters

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The display of police force in Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta has unnerved some Wall Street protesters.

While demonstrators in other cities have built a working relationship with police and city leaders, they wondered yesterday how long the good spirit would last and whether they could be next. "Yes, we're afraid," said activist William Buster. "Is this the night they might use unreasonable force?"

Officials have said they are trying to uphold the law while honoring free speech rights.

In Oakland, officials initially supported the protests, but tensions reached a boiling point after a sexual assault, a severe beating and a fire were reported and paramedics were denied access to the camp, according to city officials. Demonstrators disputed the city's claims.

Early Tuesday, riot gear-clad police were pelted with rocks, bottles and utensils as they emptied the camp near city hall and barricaded the plaza. Demonstrators returned later to march and retake the plaza. Several skirmishes broke out and officers cleared the area by firing tear gas. Police said there were roughly 1,000 demonstrators at the first clash following the march. About 100 were arrested.

Dottie Guy, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, said protester Scott Olsen, 24, an Iraq War veteran, suffered a fractured skull after being hit by a projectile. In Atlanta, police in riot gear and SWAT teams arrested 53 people. Mayor Kasim Reed, who had been supportive of the protests, said yesterday he believed the mood was no longer peaceful, referring to a man seen with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Meanwhile in London yesterday, Bishop of London Richard Chartres asked protesters outside St. Paul's Cathedral to go home because "the camp's presence threatens to eclipse . . . the issues." The landmark has been shut for nearly a week amid church officials' concerns about health and public safety.

-- AP

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