MEDIA ROOTS — As U.S. imperialism abroad goes unchecked, Federalised police platoons are cracking down on political dissent at home. The militarization of local police consists of hundreds of cops in riot gear from multiple forces, aerial support for coordinated assaults, plans for launching surveillance drones against dissenting demonstrators, police brutality, unwarranted methods of crowd control, kettles and mass arrests. Facial recognition methods seem to be utilised by police to target particular protesters labelled as persons of interest, as done in the U.K. during the recent Tottenham uprisings.
Berkeley Copwatch discusses the continuing violence led by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the OPD, elaborating on who’s really in charge of the increasingly Federalised police operations against Constitutionally-protected peaceful protest.
FLASHPOINTS — “You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. My name is Dennis Bernstein. This is your daily investigative news magazine.
“We’re going to start off by taking another look at what happened over the weekend in Oakland and the incredibly violent Oakland Police Department, cheered on by Mayor Jean Quan.
“And joining us to begin the discussion is our good friend Andrea Pritchett. She is the founder of Berkeley Copwatch. She’s been out there watching those folks in Oakland.
“Andrea, welcome back to Flashpoints.”
Andrea Pritchett (c. 2:02): “Thanks, Dennis.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 2:06): “Well, you were out there. Tell me a little bit. Give me your overview, as somebody who’s used to watching and documenting and filming. I know you did some filming of police actions.”
Andrea Pritchett (c. 2:20): “Yeah, well, Saturday afternoon it was really quite a celebration. It seemed like, from the amount of stuff that people were carrying, they were quite prepared to move into a building. And, so, it was, in fact, Move-In Day.
“So, with the celebration and that atmosphere going on the first thing that happened was that there was a sound-truck that got jammed up by the police. They got surrounded and they were being detained. So, that didn’t bode well for the whole attitude of the Police Department towards the protest.
“The protest, the march went and surrounded the sound-truck and sort of ‘liberated it’ from that situation. And the march began.
“But what was real clear, with significant air support from the helicopters above, that the police were determined to stop the march at every turn. And, so, it happened time and again where we would march down the street and meet a line of cops. And then the march would try to go a different direction to achieve their objective.
“And what had been laid down pretty clearly is that [liberal Oakland Mayor] Jean Quan and the police had said, ‘You’re not taking anything. You’re not taking any buildings’ and, apparently, they made a decision to say, ‘by any means necessary, we’re gonna stop you from doing that.’
“Now, theoretically, being in an empty building could possibly constitute trespassing or something. But the use of force, the decision to use force was made long before the protest.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 3:50): “And you’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Andrea Pritchett of Copwatch in the studio.
“Lali is on the phone. She just got out of court. She’s on the line with us. She was in the line of these arrests.
“Also, joining us is an activist, very active with Occupy Oakland, Christoph.
“But let me start off with you, Lali. You just got out of court?”
Lali (c. 4:13): “I did. I’m actually, right now, standing in front of the Court House on 7th and Washington and we just came out. And I can give you an update on what’s happened.
“As we know, somewhere around 400 people were arrested on Saturday [28 Jan 2012], most of them in the mass arrests when they were trapped into Broadway around 24th Street in front of the YMCA.
“And some of those people were cited out through the weekend. And, for most people, actually, most of these people were held cuffed for up to eight to twelve hours during the actual arrests and were not allowed to use the bathroom. Many people reported to us that they were forced to urinate on themselves.
“And all of these 400 people, many of them were not even processed 48 hours later. Basically, they kind of just disappeared into a black hole of the criminal justice system. Even as of today, there were people that we still weren’t able to find in the system. And we came to court for the arraignments of those people that they have held in custody and found, at the end of the day today, that they did not file charges on anyone, except four people for felonies and seven people for misdemeanours. So, out of 400 people on Saturday that were arrested, most of them had been held for days before being cited out. Some are still being held. Close to a hundred are still being held. And out of all of those, the district attorney was only able to file charges on eleven people here today. And the rest are gonna be, we assume, released tonight at Santa Rita.”
“So, we have a case here of close to 400 people, and this has been happening to us week after week, with a dozen here, a dozen there. But now we have 400 people who have been held, many of them two, three nights and no charges are being filed, with the exception of eleven of them.
“And the stories that we’re hearing from the conditions that people are being held in are just absolutely terrifying. There were a number of people who had serious, serious injuries, that were beaten very badly and we were unable to get medical attention for them. We had people who needed serious medication that they were on, everything from bacterial infections to all kinds of other issues that were denied their medication.
“There were people who reported that when they refused to be interrogated without a lawyer, that they were placed in solitary. Many, many of the women we spoke to have said that they were forced to take pregnancy tests in open bathrooms with male guards around.
“So, we’re getting all kinds of stories of what people have experienced in the past few days. And what we need to remember is that these 400 people, with the exception of 11, have been really, brutally punished by the City of Oakland with no kind of criminal basis. And I think it’s absolutely atrocious and something needs to be done about this. OPD cannot continue to file these, kind of, bogus, conflated charges, and hold hundreds of people, and a really dangerous situation when the District Attorney is unable to file charges because there’s actually no legal basis.
“There were up to 50 people who were charged with felony burglary for being inside of the YMCA. Those people all of them are still being held right now, but no charges were filed against them. None of those charges were filed.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 7:51): “So, they are still being held and no charges are filed?”
Lali (c. 8:05): “We only have eleven people out of those 400 for whom those charges were filed. And they had to file charges today because their time is up to hold these people on custody. So, they have to release them.
“I do want to say, though, that we still are a little bit concerned because they still have up to one year to file charges. And we’ve now had incidences where people were held in jail for several days we came to the situation. There were no charges filed ten weeks later. The District Attorney issued warrants. So, it’s not that we necessarily know we’re clear and the situation is over. We’re gonna have to continue to monitor it. But the police did not provide anything that they were able to actually legally file charges for somewhere around 390 of the people.”
MARJORY COHN ON U.S. VIOLENCE ABROAD AND DOMESTIC REPRESSION AT HOME, NDAA, OM
Marjory Cohn (0:00): “
Dennis Bernstein (0:00): “
Marjory Cohn (0:00): “…U.S. drones are flying over Baghdad to protect the largest U.S. Embassy in the world. And it still houses 11,000 Americans protected by 5,000 mercenaries and Adnan al-Asadi, the acting Iraqi Interior Minister said, ‘Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.’
“So, here we invade Iraq, an unnecessary war, an illegal war, a tragic war that killed untold thousands, tens of thousands, wounded, even more, and then committed war crimes, such as the Haditha massacre. There were other massacres, such as in Fallujah, a number of them.
“And then the Iraqi’s see that there’s no accountability for what happened.”
Dennis Bernstein (0:00): “Amazing.”
Marjory Cohn (c. 54:11): “And, of course, this makes people in other countries resent us even more, this and the torture. And then we wonder why people would want to do us harm.
“By the way, I should say, Dennis, the 24 victims of the Haditha massacre are buried in a cemetery in Iraq, it’s called Martyrs Graveyard. And there’s graffiti on the deserted house of one of the families. And it reads: ‘Democracy Assassinated the Family That Was Here.’
ON THE NDAA (S.1867)
AND THE RIGHT TO DISSENT IN THE U.S.
Dennis Bernstein (c. 54:41): “Wow. Let me tell people: You’re listening to Marjory Cohn. She is a Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a former President of the National Lawyers Guild. She’s the author of a number of books in this context. Her most recent book, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.
“We only have a couple of minutes left, but I guess what really makes me nervous is we’re seeing in the United States the militarisation, the organisation of local police departments in regional structures. And now they’re getting equipment from the military directly.
“There’s a new Federal law. We see extraordinary training programmes that cover entire regions. We see police departments now buying drones.
“Are you concerned about this militarisation and what we see in Haditha we might be seeing in Oakland some time?”
Marjory Cohn (c. 55:43): “I am very concerned. And if you saw the excessive force and police over-reaction in Oakland recently, the Occupy Movement. I understand they will start using drones for surveillance. I don’t think they’ll be armed; of course, that comes next.
“And then we have the National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed on New Years Eve, which authorizes the indefinite detention, even of U.S. citizens. That means the rest of your life locked up with no charges. This is illegal. It’s illegal under the International Coven on Civil and Political rights, which we ratified.
“And this is the kind of thing that we criticise other countries for doing. And, yet, Obama said, ‘I really didn’t wanna sign it, but I had to.’ You know, just did not show any backbone at all, just went ahead and signed that law. That’s very, very worrisome. And it’s more in a long line of restrictions that started, well it’s happened throughout our history, but it really reached, kind of, an apex during the Bush Administration under the guise of the ‘War on Terror.’ And, now, Obama is continuing a lot of that as well and preventing accountability, both criminal and civil accountability for people who were subjected to extraordinary rendition, torture, etcetera.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 57:06): “You know, Marjory, we have a Council Member here, Ignacio De La Fuente who is already talking ‘terrorism,’ talking ‘national security,’ talking, this liberal, this Democrat, talking like maybe it’s time to use these new Federal Defense Authorisation against Occupy.”
Marjory Cohn (c. 57:30): “That’s what I’m saying. I mean it could be. One of the things that’s really important to know about torture, and this is just covered in the preface to the United States and Torture by Sister Dianna Ortiz, who was a Catholic nun who went to Guatemala in the ‘80s and was viciously tortured. The Americans were leading the torture there. You know? We were supporting these vicious dictatorships in Latin America. And she says, ‘It’s done openly, notoriously, and it’s done to send a message to people that this will happen to you, if you challenge the status quo.
“And the stronger Occupy gets and the more influential and the more it spreads, you’re gonna see the repression grow commensurate with the strength of the Occupy Movement. That’s gonna happen.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 58:19): “Okay, we’re out of time. I’m sorry Professor Cohen, but we’re out of time. This is a subject we wanna come back and talk to you more about.
“Again, I recommend if people wanna check out you latest book, it is called The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse. You teach at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law down south in Southern California. Thanks for joining us.”
Marjory Cohn (c. 58:41): “Thank you, Dennis.”
Dennis Bernstein (c. 58:45): “And that does wrap it up for another edition of Flashpoints. My name is Dennis Bernstein. I produce this show with Free Wheelin’ Franklin Sterling. And we are very privileged to have these free speech airwaves.
“Tomorrow, tune in. We’re gonna go back to our foreclosure on-air clinic. If you’re getting closed out of your house, if you have a friend who is, check us out tomorrow on Flashpoints.”
Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots.