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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Police opened fire with non-lethal projectiles at an anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland on Monday morning, injuring at least six demonstrators and six longshoremen standing nearby.
Most of the 500 demonstrators at the port were dispersed peacefully, but police opened fire at two gates when protesters refused to move and police said some of them threw rocks and bolts. The longshoremen, pinned against a fence, were caught in the line of fire.
Demonstrators said they targeted the port because at least one company there is handling war supplies. They said it was the first time they had been fired upon in Bay area protests since the Iraq war began last month.
"Oakland police are being the most aggressive of any department I've seen in the Bay Area since the war began," said protester Damien McAnany, a database manager. "The San Francisco Police Department never used any of this stuff against us."
Oakland Police said at least 24 people were arrested.
"Some people were blocking port property and the port authorities asked us to move them off," said Deputy Police Chief Patrick Haw. "Police moved aggressively against crowds because some people threw rocks and big iron bolts at officers."
Police spokeswoman Danielle Ashford said officers fired bean-bag rounds and wooden dowels. They also used "sting balls," which send out a spray of BB-sized rubber pellets and a cloud of tear gas.
"When they hit you, it feels like a bee sting," Haw said. Six longshoremen were treated by paramedics, as were at least six protesters. Injuries included bruises and welts.
"I was standing as far back as I could," said longshoremen Kevin Wilson. "It was very scary. All of that force wasn't necessary."
Trent Willis, a business agent for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said enraged dockworkers were leaving the docks after the incident.
"They shot my guys. We're not going to work today," Willis said. "The cops had no reason to open up on them."
Last week, a San Francisco-based peace group, Direct Action to Stop the War, had announced that it would stage a series of protests Monday involving new acts of civil disobedience.
Protests also took place Monday at the federal building in San Francisco and at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. And seven people were arrested when they temporarily blocked an exit ramp off Interstate 280 in San Francisco.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)