(Reuters) - An Iraq war veteran was listed in critical condition on Wednesday from injuries he sustained at economic protests on the streets of Oakland, triggering calls for renewed Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the country.
Protest organizers say 24-year-old Scott Olsen, a former U.S. Marine, was struck in the head on Tuesday night by a tear gas canister fired by police during a confrontation with demonstrators trying to move back into a downtown Oakland plaza.
A spokesman for Highland General Hospital in Oakland confirmed Olsen was in critical condition there from injuries sustained during the protest but could not confirm he had been hit by a tear gas canister.
Oakland Police spokeswoman Cynthia Perkins said the department was investigating the incident. She declined further comment.
Keith Shannon, who said he served alongside Olsen in Iraq, told Reuters his friend was suffering from a two-inch skull fracture and brain swelling and had been sedated in the hospital's emergency room trauma center while neurosurgeons decide whether to operate.
The hospital declined to comment on those medical details.
Shannon said Olsen served two tours in Iraq from 2006 to 2010 with the 3rd battalion, 4th Marine regiment. Shannon, 24, and Olsen deployed together to Iraq, where they worked in tactical communications, Shannon said.
They both now work as systems administrators at a software firm, he said.
VIDEO MAY SHOW INCIDENT
Olsen, originally from Onalaska, Wisconsin, had been camping overnight with the Occupy San Francisco protest before joining the Oakland movement after a police crackdown, said his friend Adele Carpenter, who spoke to Reuters by phone from the hospital waiting room.
"The irony is not lost on anyone here that this is someone who survived two tours in Iraq and is now seriously injured by the Oakland police force," Carpenter, 29, told Reuters.
YouTube videos that appear to be from Tuesday night's clashes show a man identified as Olsen being carried away from a police line by protesters, bleeding and unresponsive to questions.
The video could not be independently verified by Reuters.
The injuries to Olsen touched off a furor among protesters in Oakland and elsewhere, where organizers took to Twitter and other social media to call for marches in his name on Wednesday night.
"In #solidarity with #occupyoakland, march at 9PM tonight! Meet us at #libertysquare!" Occupy Wall Street's Twitter account said in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon.
More than 1,000 people marched on Oakland's city hall on Tuesday night to protest scores of arrests made by police when they broke up an encampment in a plaza nearby earlier on Tuesday.
The protests in Oakland are an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement launched more than a month ago in New York.
The demonstrations voicing frustration over government bailouts of big banks, persistent high unemployment and economic inequality have spread across the United States and overseas, although participant numbers remain relatively small in most cities.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)