Police said they fired the tear gas on protesters in Oakland, California, after the crowd threw paint and other objects at officers.
Plumes of smoke could be seen in the city as about 500 people defied calls to leave an area of downtown Oakland on Tuesday, according to police. Protesters had camped for weeks in several areas in the city, including near City Hall, police said.
“The city remains committed to respecting free speech as well as maintaining the city’s responsibility to protect public health and safety,” Oakland police said in a statement.
Oakland resident Andrew Johnson said he decided to leave when police threatened arrests, soon after hearing explosions as tear gas canisters were fired into the air.
“I think at first it was a pretty inspiring sight,” he said of the protesters. “It was inspiring to see people so impassioned. But when the police action began, it was a pretty unnerving sight. Just to see that energy turn into panic and anger was unsettling.”
In Atlanta, police arrested demonstrators at a downtown park overnight. The arrests came after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he sent ministers to the park “to see if we can find a way to resolve this amicably.”
Reed said that concerns were increased when a man in the park was seen with an assault rifle. “We could not determine whether the weapon was loaded and could not get additional information on the weapon,” he said.
Authorities ordered people to leave the park around midnight Tuesday, going from tent to tent with flashlights. Arrests began taking place about 12:45 a.m.
Organizers had asked protesters to be peaceful if police took action. Many gathered in the center of the park, locked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome,” as police led them one by one to waiting buses.
A protester at the park said he was scared. “It’s very intimidating,” said Malcolm McKenzie. “I believe what we’re doing is right, but we’re going to jail. It hurts to see America do this to people who want change.”
Perhaps one of the Western powers needs a revolution to correct the excesses of capitalism and its impact on ordinary people.