Severe police brutality at Occupy Oakland

(One of countless videos and pictures taken last night as the police raided Occupy Oakland)

As a former Bay Area resident, my heart was broken last night looking at the images and videos from what was happening to the protesters at Occupy Oakland. Oakland never gets a break from the police. The peaceful protesters were met with teargas, rubber bullets and flashbang grenades five minutes after it was deemed unsafe. They gave the protestors five minutes to disperse. A blogger from Oakland writes about the account,

You might find it a bit confusing trying to keep track of the different times the Oakland Police department used tear gas on peaceful protesters yesterday. In the morning, they raided the Occupy Oakland camp and destroyed everything the occupiers had built, as I wrote about yesterday (and you can see video of that here).

But then, in the afternoon, this march gathered at the Oakland public library at 4 and proceeded to march back towards Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. In response, OPD declared the protest to be an unlawful assembly, gave us 5 minutes to disperse, and then attacked the crowd with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets. I was there until that point, and I can testify that it was a peaceful march until the police attacked it.

If you read an account of the march like this one – or listen to the Oakland Police Chief here — you will get the impression that the crowd was the aggressor (“Occupy Oakland demonstrators clashed…with police” and that “The demonstrators sparred”)  and that ”[OPD] had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks and…chemical agents that were thrown at the officers.” It’s very hard to see everything that is happening in a huge crowd like that, so the Oakland police chief may well be telling the truth when he says that his officers were “pelted by paint and a chemical irritant” But whether or not his officers were hit with paint — and even if that justifies what happened next — it has nothing to do with how or why the OPD (and officers from every police department in the area) first used the kind of force they did, when they did.

The role that Jean Quan has played in this is now under scrutiny. The Alameda Labor Council said in their support of Occupy Oakland they believe that Mayor Quan and the City Council are on the “wrong side of history.” Mayor Quan (known to be fairly progressive) has yet to make a public statement–but setting the police lose on the protesters was not the best move. We already know OPD doesn’t deal with protestors humanely or in the service of justice.

More from Roberto Lovato at Colorlines.

Also, here are 15 things you can do to support Occupy Wallstreet (and Denver, Oakland and Boston).

Join the Conversation

  • Robyn

    This report is being made out of context. The campers had been given notice days before they were removed, not “five minutes.” The camp itself was riddled with problems. I heard from people there how sexual assaults were an unusually large problem among the tents (signs were even posted all over saying “No means no”); that the Children’s Zone has been raided and looted; that kids were being dumped at the Children’s Zone along, and when their parents were tracked down they were blasted out of their minds; and that a man was brutely beaten at the camp but the police were not let in to help. When I visited on several occations, I was hit up for cash by a clearly alcoholic guy who was clearly not aware of any larger issues, and I saw people passed out (not asleep) in their tents or on the open ground for hours during the daytime. This camp was by no means shangrila, and it is flawed reporting to allude that it was. I agree with building community, but it should be done right. No one should be beaten, sexually assaulted, neglected (children!) and denied help in the process. The Oakland police were not “unprovoked” and the campers were not entirely peaceful or nonviolent. Please report both sides of an issue.

    • Eric Z

      Where does anyone say that it was a Shangri-La? These people were living in squallid conditions. I’m sorry that the face of political activism doesn’t appeal to you, or that you had a bad experience. But I did not, nor did my friends who visited or lived there. How can you tell the difference between passed out and asleep? Was the man who asked for money a part of the movement or one of the many homeless that lived in the park before any protesters showed up? What does any of that have to do with the movement itself? I’m sorry that you find individuals ugly and divided and unsympathetic. I’m sorry that individuals make mistakes. Does any of that justify a violent police reaction? There was NO attempt by the police to enter into the park under peaceful terms to address any reports of crimes. Police did visit the park peacefully, but they stayed at the perimeter. And often chatted with the protesters in a friendly manner. They never once in pursuit about any crimes other than the crimes of free speech and assembly.

      The protesters were only given minutes to respond at 4am. They had been given notice of an illegal demand to end their first amendment right to assemble. They refused. However, the police did not show up that day, or the next day, nor give any indication of what day they would show up. How long should they wait? And is the only proper response to illegal demands from the very system you are protesting one of submission? I’m sorry you find democracy so ugly. The rule of law is important, however fighting against the law when it does not serve the people is also important.

      If you want both sides of the story, turn on any news channel or press release. We’re only interested in the facts of the movement. We don’t need “both sides”. We just need one side. This is not a matter of opinion, about whether our oppressors have the right to oppress us. This is a matter of fact. They do not have the right to oppress us.

  • hotaruemi

    Amen, EZ. This is a common mentality (that when the system you’re protesting requests you to stop, that you should) among people I’ve spoken to that think OWS is pointless/useless/stupid/etc. This movement wouldn’t be as powerful if the point wasn’t that they were using civil disobedience to create a better society. If there were problems in the site about neglect, substance abuse, or any of the other issues Robyn brings up, that is not an excuse to Tear Gas the entire camp, children, victims, and all. There should be a call for investigation or some kind of intervention to prevent problems like that, but you cannot simply denounce the entire movement because some people who may not have been part of the movement were trying to ruin it for everyone else.