Posted on 01 February 2012 by Benjamin Phillips
Occupy Oakland Press Conference on Police Violence
On January 28, thousands of people responded to Occupy Oakland’s call for a mass mobilization to occupy a vacant building and transform it into a new home for the movement. Occupy Oakland’s new home was to be a social center, open to all who wanted to participate and contribute. We planned to work together, as we did at Oscar Grant Plaza, to provide free food, housing, medical care, a space for children, a space for women and queers, and, most importantly, a community.
“The entire plan to take over a building was kept a secret in order to avoid conflict with the police,” said Occupier Jaime Omar Yassin. “The plan would allow people who wanted to stay away from police to do so. Only people who were committed to facing police violence and arrest–knowing the risks–would stay in the building. The last thing we wanted was for hundreds of people to be assaulted and arrested, but that seemed to be the OPD’s priority in order to protect an unused building.”
We were met with a massive police response including tear gas, flash bang grenades, sub lethal rounds and wanton baton strikes. The city, which continues to close libraries and schools and lay off city workers, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to violently prevent Occupy Oakland from transforming an unused, City-owned building into a socially useful space. In excess of $3 million of taxpayer money has been spent to repress Occupy Oakland so far; the city seems to have no intention of halting its costly and brutal efforts.
Despite the police aggression, close to a thousand people regrouped at Oscar Grant Plaza and marched through downtown. Police trapped us in a vacant lot at 19th and Telegraph and tear gas was once again used. After escaping the kettle, the march continued a few blocks north before hundreds were trapped again, in front of the YMCA building, and arrested with no dispersal order.
By the end of the evening, close to 400 protesters had been arrested in Oakland, the vast majority with unfounded charges that will most likely be dropped.
Despite police and city official’s attempts to criminalize and smear Occupy Oakland, the movement retains high levels of broad support. The fact that several thousand people participated in the Move-in day is evidence of the continuing support for Occupy Oakland. Cars honked in support of the march as we passed in the streets, several storefronts cheered and residents passed out water to gassed and exhausted protesters. Solidarity demonstrations were held in nearly thirty cities, organized by Occupy Wall Street, Boston, Chicago and others.
As marchers were released through the weekend, stories of police misconduct emerged. Alyssa Eisenberg, an Occupy Oakland activist who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, was denied her medication while being detained. “At least two other people who asked for medication weren’t given it,” she said. “One woman had her cuffs on so tight that her hands were turning blue and she was crying. The way they treated us is exactly why I am involved in Occupy Oakland,” Eisenberg said. Other protesters recently released from jail report similar widespread abuses. Detained protesters were kept in painful zip tie handcuffs—some for 8 to 12 hours—were not allowed to access bathrooms and were not given medical treatment for injuries or illness—including someone suffering from HIV and another suffering from a kidney condition. Those processed at Santa Rita have complained of being kept in holding areas designed for a fraction of their number, in inappropriate areas like shower rooms, and of being harassed.
These acts follow the Quan administration’s attempts to game the judicial system and use it to stifle freedom of expression with “stay away” orders and by piling on, and reopening, charges for protests. Occupy Oakland and the people of Oakland and the Bay Area, will not be intimidated into silence and passivity by the violence and repression against us. These acts only strengthen our resolve, and should be a clarion call to all people who value free speech and assembly. Occupy Oakland continues to plan demonstrations and actions to defend the interests of the 99% against the repression and greed of the 1%. On Sunday, January 29, the day after police attacks and arrests, Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly voted to hold a rally against police repression on Monday, February 6, and endorsed the call for a May 1 international general strike.
* Firing sub-lethal ammunition indiscriminately into a crowd, at head level; use of tear gas in violation of OPD’s policies. * Detaining journalists with visible press credentials * Officers covering ID/name tags—illegal under California Penal Code 830.10; a Federal Judge recently called this “the most serious level of misconduct” * Policies for dispersal orders not followed * Unnecessary use of force and violence
* Filing “stay away” orders which prevent protesters from attending GAs and city council meetings.
Judge Henderson’s Ruling on OPD Covering IDs and Names: