By Mary Slosson
(Reuters) - An Iraq war veteran was in critical condition on Wednesday with injuries sustained during economic protests on the streets of Oakland on Tuesday night, a hospital spokesman said.
Occupy Wall Street organizers said former U.S. Marine Scott Olsen was hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police during a confrontation near downtown Oakland.
A spokesman for Highland General Hospital confirmed that Olsen was being treated for injuries sustained during the protest and was listed in critical condition. He could not confirm whether Olsen had been struck by a tear gas canister.
Oakland police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
More than 1,000 people marched on city hall Tuesday night to protest scores of arrests made by police when they broke up an encampment in a plaza nearby earlier on Tuesday.
"Oakland Police Department fired a tear gas canister at his head, fracturing his skull," said Joshua Shepherd, a friend of Olsen's, according to an Occupy Wall Street press release.
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 crowds remain relatively small in most cities.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and David Bailey)