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For supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the wounding of an Iraq war veteran protesting in Oakland has provided a powerful central rallying point.
The veteran, Scott Olsen, was injured Tuesday night when he was hit in the head with a projectile thrown or shot by law enforcement officers combating protesters trying to enter a downtown plaza. Mr. Olsen, who served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, suffered a fractured skull.
While Mr. Olsen’s condition has since improved, his injury has prompted sympathy and calls for solidarity among the scores of Occupy encampments around the nation.
Friends of Mr. Olsen said that he had eagerly joined the Occupy movement, heading to the San Francisco camp after work and sleeping on the streets in solidarity with the campers there. He was in Oakland on Tuesday to take part in the demonstration there.
Video of Mr. Olsen, bleeding and stunned, has been shown on the Internet and television news reports, though what exactly hit him remained unclear. Joshua Shepherd, another veteran, said there had been a “barrage of police tear gas canisters flying everywhere.”
“I did not know Scott had been hit,” Mr. Shepherd said. “People dragged him away.”
Since the skirmish, which resulted in more than 100 arrests, several groups, including Amnesty International, have condemned the use of tear gas and the actions of Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan, who said the measures were justified because protesters threw rocks.
The Oakland police have promised an investigation, and Ms. Quan stated on that Oakland is a “very progressive city” that supports Occupy Wall Street. Nonetheless, petitions are circulating calling for the resignation of Oakland’s interim police chief.
Three thousand people gathered on Wednesday night, debating the merits of calling a general strike in Oakland next week. That event was followed by a march through downtown. The Oakland police kept their distance.
Outside City Hall on Thursday, several tents sprang up on the plaza, after protesters removed a police barricade the night before. Nearby, a tribute to Mr. Olsen was built around a flagpole, with the words “Pray 4 Scott” chalked onto the pavement.
A handful of protesters also stood guard, including Joann Herr, 60, of Oakland, who said Mr. Olsen’s injury had enraged her. “I was mad,” Ms. Herr said. “How could you not be?”
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