Frank Ogawa Plaza reopens a year after Occupy protest


City leaders call the new lawn at the plaza symbolic of the city's rebirth.

"We're on the upswing, Oakland is definitely on the rise," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Quan stood with other political and business leaders to celebrate what she called a "renaissance" of her city's downtown, including the restoration of Frank Ogawa Plaza.

"We have at least 30 new businesses that are planned. We have some retail that we're talking to that we hope we'll be able to accomplish within the next year," said Quan.

Frank Ogawa Plaza -- dubbed "Oscar Grant Plaza" by demonstrators -- looked like a crowded campsite one year ago. Riot-clad police moved in to dismantle the encampment that many city leaders had initially supported.

Now, the grass has been re-seeded and leaders say the downtown has re-bounded from Occupy and an economy that left many local businesses suffering.

"What's happening in the past, obviously we all regret, but we're now moving forward," said Joseph Haraburda, from Oakland's Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, some in the Occupy community plan to gather at Ogawa Plaza and later march to Oakland Police headquarters. Then, they promise to return to the plaza and retake it, at least for one night.

Alfonso Dominguez owns two restaurants, not far from the plaza. He said, "There is that few percentage that take it to another inappropriate level, but I respect them to have their opinion and demonstrate what they want to demonstrate."

The police plan to facilitate the occupy event, as long as it stays peaceful.

"If we're going to guard against anything, we're going to guard against criminal acts," said Oakland Police Sgt. Chris Bolton.

When asked how the city was going to handle a tent going up or an all-night vigil, Quan said, "We just won't allow [tents]. All night vigils are fine.'

There is a 10 p.m. closure time for the park and others in the city. The police made it very clear Wednesday afternoon that they will only respond to the activities of those who are in the plaza Thursday evening.

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