"Occupy" demonstrators rally around injured vet

More than 1,000 people attended candlelight vigil for Scott Olsen Ghursday in Oakland
AP Photo/Noah Berger

OAKLAND, Calif. -- At least 1,000 people gathered in Oakland in honor of the Iraq war veteran who was seriously injured in a confrontation between police and anti-Wall Street demonstrators.

Many in the crowd held candles during last night's vigil for 24-year-old Scott Olsen, who's in the hospital with a fractured skull. His condition has been upgraded to fair.

Olsen was hurt Tuesday night as police in riot gear met protesters who were trying to return to the area near Oakland's City Hall where they had been camping out.

Fellow veterans say Olsen was struck in the head by a projectile fired by police, but that hasn't been confirmed. Officials are investigating exactly where the projectile came from.

The Marine veteran, who won medals in Iraq, has become a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators across the country.

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Protesters also held a vigil in Las Vegas that drew a handful of police officers.

Afterward, protesters invited the officers for a potluck dinner. "We renewed our vow of nonviolence," organizer Sebring Frehner said.

Elsewhere across the United States, officials took steps to close some of the protest camps that have sprung up in opposition to growing economic inequality.

Authorities in Tennessee made about 30 arrests early Friday at the site where a few dozen Wall Street protesters had been encamped for about three weeks in Nashville, protesters said.

Authorities began moving in a little after 3 a.m. using a newly enacted state policy that set a curfew for the grounds near the state Capitol, including Legislative Plaza where the protesters had been staying in tents.

The state's new rules specifically ban "overnight occupancy" at the public space and require permits and use fees for rallies.

Katy Savage, one of the protesters, said she peeked out of her tent around 3 a.m. saw that the camp was surrounded by state troopers.

"I was grabbing our stuff to try to get it off the area," she said.

Savage said people who had already decided they would get arrested sat down together and began singing "We Shall Overcome" as troopers dragged some of them to waiting buses.

About 20 protesters, who remained on a sidewalk, were not arrested and were still there later in the morning.

Asked about the arrests, Savage said she was "disgusted and disappointed."

"This was a group of brilliant, wonderful people that I had come to know as family, practicing democratic decision-making on public space. And for that they were dragged away in handcuffs," Savage said.

Even as the vigil was held in Oakland, protest organizers prepared to defy Oakland's prohibition on overnight camping at a plaza near City Hall.

Shake Anderson, an organizer with Occupy Oakland, said half a dozen tents were erected on the plaza Thursday evening where police armed with tear gas and bean bag rounds disbanded a 15-day-old encampment Tuesday. More tents, food and supplies arrived during the meeting and vigil for Scott Olsen, with about 25 tents erected late Thursday.

"We believe in what we're doing," Anderson said. "No one is afraid. If anything, we're going to show there's strength in numbers."

Few police were seen in the area during late Thursday night, though Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued a statement asking protesters not to camp at the plaza.

In the statement, she also "apologized for the outcome of Tuesday night's demonstration, in which a heavy police presence kept protesters out of the plaza with tear gas, smoke grenades and rubber bullets," reports CBS station KPIX-TV in San Francisco.

"It was not what anyone hoped for, ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened," the statement read.

She said city officials have started an investigation into the use of force by police Tuesday night.

Protesters at San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza braced for a police raid early Thursday that never came. Still, police have warned the protesters that they could be arrested on a variety of sanitation or illegal camping violations.

Officials told protesters in Providence, R.I., that they were violating multiple city laws by camping overnight at a park.

Anti-Wall Street protesters camped out in downtown Los Angeles said they're planning to continue their demonstration indefinitely, although both they and the mayor's office were eyeing alternate sites.

Meanwhile, Olsen has been improving. Doctors transferred him from the emergency room to an intensive care unit and upgrading his condition to fair.

Dr. Alden Harken, chief surgeon at Alameda County Medical Center, said Olsen was still unable to speak but had improved dramatically since he was hospitalized unconscious with a fractured skull and bruised brain that caused seizures.

By Thursday afternoon, Harken said, Olsen was interacting with his parents, who flew in from Wisconsin in the morning, doing math equations and otherwise showing signs of "high-level cognitive functioning." The doctor said he may require surgery, but that's unlikely.