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Protesters reject violence flare

Protesters help an injured Occupy Oakland demonstrator after a police-fired projectile struck his leg on Thursday.

AP photo

OAKLAND, Calif. — Occupy Wall Street supporters who staged rallies that shut down the nation’s fifth-busiest port during a day of protests condemned on Thursday the demonstrators who clashed with police in the latest flare-up of violence in Oakland, Calif.

Riot police arrested more than 80 protesters in the city’s downtown, where bands of demonstrators threw chunks of concrete and metal pipes as well as lit roman candles and firebombs, police said. Five protesters and several officers were injured.

“I think it will allow detractors to criticize the movement,” protester Hale Nicholson said.

The protest outside the Port of Oakland, which reopened Thursday, represented an escalation in tactics as a movement that had largely been about marches, rallies and tent camps targeted a major symbol of the nation’s commerce.

The violence that followed, however, raised questions about the direction of the movement and whether the clashes, so far mostly isolated in a city with a history of tensions between residents and police, will galvanize protesters or hurt their cause.

Nicholson blamed the violence on a small group of young people just there for violence — “Some kids looking to blow off some steam.”

In Los Angeles, a spokesman for the encampment there, said those demonstrators don’t represent the movement.

“We are about peace. That’s the most powerful tool we have,” said Mario Jefferson of the Occupy LA encampment.

The far-flung movement challenging the world’s economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks as it set up tent camps from New York’s Wall Street to Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

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