Occupy Oakland Still Facing Police Brutality

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MEDIA ROOTS — In apparent small-scale warfare waged by Oakland police against First Amendment activity, hundreds of people were kettled, brutalised with batons, tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and arrested during Occupy Oakland (OO) demonstrations on Saturday, January 28, 2012, in the first major action by OO since the Oakland Port shutdown. 

Participants have charged they weren’t given clear dispersal orders by police, preventing many from avoiding arrest, as well as kettling people and using the hammer and anvil police formation.  According to Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, almost 400 hundred people were arrested during Saturday’s OO demonstrations.

Occupy Oakland reported:

“Many people who have medical needs were unable to prevent themselves from being arrested, or to retrieve their medication, because the police did not give a dispersal order—they just kettled.”

This tactic of kettling is a consistent tactic used by police against the Occupy Movement to corral all demonstrators, even passersby and journalists.  This is apparently intended to discourage participation by those unable to risk arrest or those interested in witnessing the demonstrations as neutral observers or independent journalists (corporate press often rely solely on police accounts, rather than direct observation).  OO has noted the tactic is illegal; indeed, it amounts to entrapment when people are ordered to disperse and, yet, not allowed to do so.  U.K. courts have found the tactic to be clearly illegal.

The activities on Saturday were intended to kick off “a weekendlong festival,” according to OO, starting with “the takeover of an empty building where it will host workshops, panels, a film festival, live music, assemblies and more”—“including former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown, anarchist anthropologist and member of Occupy Wall Street David Graeber, feminist, revolutionary & historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz…”

Pacifica Radio’s Northern California sister-station, KPFA, also covered OO demonstrations. 

The Morning Mix” aired a special broadcast with Dennis Bernstein this morning.  It was reported that many demonstrators were badly beaten, at least one was hit with a stun gun, another had teeth knocked out by a police baton, another was thrown through a plate glass window, people were thrown down the stairs, and another was hospitalised for internal bleeding as a result of rioting cops swinging their batons at people, in violation of their own policies.

Franklin Sterling “was out there in Oakland where the police deployed hundreds of officers in riot gear over the weekend, so as to prevent OO from putting a vacant building, which has sat vacant for six years,” and for which the City of Oakland has no current plans.

Dennis Bernstein also invited various guests to discuss OO “and why the violent Oakland Mayor” Jean Quan “feels so much camaraderie with the Oakland Police,” which have been working overtime to undermine the First Amendment rights of the people, as she turns “her back on the people who elected her.”

Letters and Politics” was also on the scene Saturday capturing audio for today’s broadcast. 

Note:  Pam Drake, the conflicted OO member interviewed by LAP this morning who wrote an article about breaking up with the Occupy Movement, claimed OO didn’t ratify the Move-In Day occupation of an empty building.  Yet, Occupy Oakland indicates, the “Occupy Oakland GA passed a proposal calling for the [vacant building] space to be turned into a social center, convergence center and headquarters of the Occupy Oakland movement.”  In conclusion, Drake, a ‘SaveKPFAfaction-aligned KPFA Local Station Board Member said she still considered herself a member of OO, oddly rendering her entire position moot. 

Although, there have been reports of OO demonstrators breaking into Oakland’s City Hall and causing damage, even by the ostensibly radical KPFA News (aligned with the less radical KPFA faction above), audio reports from LAP today describe how the doors were left open, people were hesitant to go inside, with only a few entering.

What is not disputed are the flag burnings that took place after U.S. and California flags were taken from Oakland City Hall and burned by demonstrators in a Constitutionally-protected act of free speech, albeit with appropriated City Hall property.

Ultimately, OO was prevented by police in riot gear from occupying the building, which has been vacant for six years now, and which OO decided to convert into a community centre and new home for the OO Movement.  Mass actions in solidarity with the police state repression against OO have been planned in dozens of cities across the nation.



Occupy Oakland demonstrations, January 28, 2012



Oakland, CA–Saturday, January 28, 2012, Sheila and I joined about 1,500 members of Occupy massed at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. Occupy Oakland’s announced intention was to march to and occupy a long vacant building “somewhere” in the city to re-create a living, working, and coordinating center for this young “politics on the fly” movement for the rights of the 99%. As you probably know, previous occupations of public space from coast to coast have been destroyed and precluded by Government ordered police actions, making community development, collaboration and participatory mass democracy yet more difficult.  

The atmosphere was festive and gay, resembling what the counter culture of the 60s used to call a “be-in.” People of all ages, got up in all kinds of costumes, wheeling large platform dollies with furniture, mattresses, sleeping bags, grills, electronics, crates of canned foods, loaves of fresh bread and almost anything you can think of you might need in your new home, through the streets of the city. A drumming corp and a brass band separately did their thing. Within the march itself, music also blared from a powerful high quality sound system on a flatbed truck draped with young people. A famous recycled and refurbished AC Transit “Occupy” bus was ambushed out of the demo and occupied by the police. When one of the marchers’ platform dollies lost a wheel in a BART grating dozens of people came to the rescue, each picking up something from the load of materiale and carrying the stuff along the march. Sheila grabbed a box weighing about 15 pounds, which may have contained large plastic bags (at least according to its original printed label). We saw an old friend, Helen, in the drum group, pounding out a pulsing beat on a large drum strung from her waist. Young people smiled, swayed and danced their way snakelike through downtown until the march reached Laney College. There were also bicyclists, children in carriages pushed by parents, people of various ethnicities often in small social groups, and the always present minority of young anarchists with shields and masks.  

Slowly the police began to mass around the march perimeters. At Laney the march was blocked by a police line to the left and had to enter the campus; and when it tried to exit we found most of the ways off campus barred by battle ready police lines. Exiting at the Southeast edge of campus the march tried to track back toward downtown, only to be fenced in and blocked by chain link fencing and police lines. With nowhere to go the march stalled for a short while until, without provocation, Oakland’s finest began lobbing numerous (probably about 10) smoke/flash grenades into the dense crowd. People scattered briefly without any panicking and then reassembled. About 10 minutes after the smoke cleared, the police from a cruiser speaker declared an unlawful assembly and issued a disperse order. We left the demonstration, backtracking our way out at that point to avoid arrest or being beaten. However, the police apparently did not attack the full demonstration at that time (from what we later learned) and you’ll have to find out what then transpired from some other intrepid reporter. One of those, still among the crowd when we left was Mitch Jeserich (in his wheelchair), undaunted and apparently recording for his KPFA Letters and Politics program (Mondays-Fridays 10 a.m. at 94.1 FM the SF Bay Area).  

A 5 p.m. local newscast on Channel 7 (ABC) stated that police were forced to use grenades and teargas because an unruly crowd attacked them. If this happened it wasn’t while we were there. Although we were right in the middle of the crowd, we saw no attacks against the police, only the smoke grenade attack by the cops, although a few young men pushed down parts of the chain-link fences in a couple of places. From the way the crowd was blocked an uninvolved observer might well conclude that any confrontations were in response to the police decision to trap the march. The police and the ABC media coverage suggest that the aim of the 1%’s armed and responsive police was to create just enough chaos to: 1) prevent the Occupiers from reaching their objective location, 2) to justify some arrests, 3) provoke some skirmishes that would allow demonization of the 99% movement via the 1%’s wholly owned corporate capitalist media. We’ve all seen these tactics used against the Black and Latino communities and against immigrants.  

In a perhaps unrelated provocation a couple of counter pickets held a huge printed sign at the start of the march with the slogan: Occupy attacks Workers Rights. No one paid them any attention. Later I overheard one marcher tell another: “The media and politicians always claim we are costing the city all this money for the police. But why are they calling out hundreds of cops? We aren’t destroying anything or hurting anyone. We don’t want them spending public funds on cops to attack us and prevent public discourse either. They do it to protect the monopoly of power of the 1%.”

Written by Marc Sapir

[Marc sent this via email to a mutual KPFA friend (whilst sending it to the Berkeley Daily Planet).  This is taken from that email.]


Photo by flickr user Mark Z

One thought on “Occupy Oakland Still Facing Police Brutality

  1. I watched the NBC nightly news on the 29th, 30th, and the 31st of January.
    During that time things had heated up in Oakland and there were Occupy demonstrations in NYC, Vancouver, Washington DC and Miami. It was not mentioned once on the National Nightly News put on by NBC.
    This method is designed to localize and trivialize important news and issues.

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