The Oakland City Council has agreed to settle Kayvan Sabeghi’s federal civil rights lawsuit for $645,000. Sabeghi’s spleen was lacerated during an Occupy Oakland demonstration on November 2, 2011, when he was beaten by Oakland Police Officer Frank Uu Uu, now retired, was part of a tight-knit group of SWAT / “Tango team” officers who were at the heart of OPD’s violent misconduct toward Occupy Oakland demonstrators. Uu’s immediate supervisor at the time of this incident was Sgt. Patrick Gonzales, who has been involved in multiple shooting deaths.
The Sabeghi settlement comes just months after the more than $2 million total settlement in two other cases against the OPD for its violent repression of Occupy Oakland and mass arrest of Justice for Oscar Grant demonstrators. As part of those settlements, the City of Oakland and OPD agreed to abide by and to allow the court to enforce a crowd control policy setting strict guidelines o and use of force at demonstrations and other crowd situations. However, OPD has refused to forgo use of so-called “less lethal” weapons such as explosive chemical agent grenades and lead shot filled impact munitions in crowd situations, despite serious injuries such as that of twenty four year old Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who was shot in the head at close range with a “bean bag” round on October 25, 2011. Olsen’s case is still unresolved.
Kayvan Sabeghi was represented by National Lawyers Guild attorneys Rachel Lederman, Bobbie Stein and Dennis Cunningham.
Yes the feds did raid the YMCA. On the morning of November 5th,2013, FBI agents and US Marshals conducted a raid in West Oakland, California.
According to agents, the person they were attempting to apprehend allegedly escaped out of a window during the raid. Accompanied by OPD, the agents set a perimeter that eventually partially locked down the neighborhood for a brief amount of time.
There are two points in this video where space was negotiated between agents and the videographer. It is important to note that the first incident took place was a result of one agent allowing the videographer to walk down a street only to be received eventually by a more hostile one closer to the next intersection.
The second incident in this video took place in an area that was not shut down to the public, the sidewalk was open and there were two other people within close proximity of the agents. It was the appearance of a video camera that prompted the hostility.
As the perimeter tightened, it was believed amongst agents on the scene that the individual in question was on top of the YMCA located on the corner of Market and Brockhurst. Eventually they worked out a top and bottom approach to the YMCA issue by bringing in a fire truck to help some get on top of the building why others below broke into the center using a tactical crowbar. The roof was clear and the building empty.
As the operation was coming to an end, a person was taken into police custody, arrested further down the block. A board was put over Youth Center door. It’s clear the feds did damage to it, and they were seen taking their battering ram into the building after the initial entry.
Question. So do the feds foot the bill when they come to Oakland and do property damage?
On November 5th , 2010, Oakland Police swarmed a group of Oscar Grant demonstrators as they marched towards the Fruitvale Bart Station in East Oakland.
For those who don’t know, Oscar Grant was a young man who was killed on video, Jan 1 2009 by Bart Police in front of scores of people.
This killing would bring people together all over the bay, state, country, and world around police murder in violence.
This group in particular was heading towards Fruitvale Bart station when they were illegally surrounded and arrested for “remaining at the scene of a riot”
The National Lawyers guild sued the city of Oakland and just this summer settled for over a million dollars, citing OPD inability to follow it’s own crowd control policies.
Take a peak at this video produced about police actions that day. .
Sri Louise Coles was determined to hold the picket line. She remembered seeing a picket outside the A&P as a kid, so she understood what she had to do: walk a loop in front of one of the many entrance gates in the Port of Oakland, keep moving, and shout slogans with the other protesters. A brass band played and demonstrators joined in with shakers. It reminded her of a parade.
It was April 7, 2003, and the assembly was in protest of American President Lines, a shipping company believed to transport military supplies to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. By blocking the shipping terminal gates, demonstrators hoped to temporarily disrupt American President Lines’ operations.
Word traveled through Coles’ group that police officers were at other gates in the port, firing rubber bullets at picketers. Never having seen a rubber bullet before, she imagined a small plastic BB — nothing too harmful.
Oakland police officers in riot helmets arrived at Coles’ gate and ordered the demonstrators to disperse. Coles, unwilling to be arrested, complied. She stepped out into the street, joining a larger crowd of demonstrators whom police had already cleared from other gates.
Suddenly, she heard explosions. What seemed like debris fell around her and ricocheted up off the road. Other demonstrators began to run, but, fearing for the safety of her eyes, Coles and a friend crouched down behind a car. An officer approached the pair and ordered them back into the street. As they stepped out from their makeshift shelter, several police on motorcycles revved their engines and charged, striking them. Shocked and terrified, Coles tried once again to take shelter, but the officer screamed at her again, telling her she had to go.
She sprinted diagonally across the street, trying to avoid being hit by the motorcycles. A woman with a large camera dangling from her neck was screaming hysterically. “Are you getting this?” Coles asked her. The woman was incapable of responding.
Coles turned away to continue down the side of the road, away from the police. As she turned, something struck the side of her face. She ducked, eyes clenched shut. When she opened her eyes, she could see her jaw swelling into her line of sight. “I’ve been hit,” she told her friend. She hadn’t broken the law or violated police orders, but the police were treating the crowd itself as a threat. Her participation in the protest had earned her a beanbag round to the face.
That 2003 protest was but one incident in the Oakland Police Department’s lengthy, routinely brutal struggle with the city’s activist community. Oakland protests frequently turn violent — often, as in 2003, because officers attack peaceful demonstrators, and sometimes, as at a recent protest over the George Zimmerman verdict, when demonstrators attack bystanders, journalists, or the police. Protests are a particular challenge for the already-troubled department: Police are charged with protecting a crowd’s First Amendment rights in addition to their typical law enforcement duties. It’s a challenge OPD has yet to master.
The department’s handling of crowds is problematic, and has been for many years. The rights afforded to protest participants — both by OPD’s own crowd-control policy and the Constitution — have not been consistently upheld. Officers’ haphazard use of force against crowds suggests that policy and law have been downright ignored. The names of protesters injured by OPD over the past decade change, but the police are always facing the same enemy: the crowd.
The year 2003 had already been a rocky year for the OPD. A few months before the port protest, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson approved a negotiated settlement agreement in Allen v. City of Oakland, better known as the Riders case, a civil rights lawsuit alleging police misconduct within OPD. The settlement included a $10.9 million payment to 119 plaintiffs and the appointment of an independent monitoring team to oversee police reforms in Oakland.
The court-ordered reforms made the Oakland community hopeful for change, explains Rachel Lederman, a lead attorney with the National Lawyers Guild. But the injuries sustained by Coles and at least 57 others during the port protest shocked the city. “It was very distressing for the civil rights community that this happened at that time [of the Rider’s settlement],” Lederman says. The brutal reaction to the protest sent a message that Oakland police weren’t ready to reform.
In response, the NLG joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union and the lead attorneys in the Riders case, Jim Chanin and John Burris, to sue OPD. Their suit led to the creation of OPD’s first official crowd-control policy. Negotiated in 2004 among OPD, the ACLU, and the NLG, the policy was intended to give OPD guidelines for managing crowds without inflicting widespread injuries or otherwise violating demonstrators’ constitutional rights. OPD issued the policy to all officers in a training bulletin dated Oct. 28, 2005.
The policy forbade officers from using several of the dispersal tactics OPD used at the port protest: It prohibited the wooden dowel rounds and stinger grenades, as well as the use of motorcycles as weapons. The policy also provided clear instructions for declaring unlawful assemblies and making mass arrests.
However, the policy did not prohibit other less-lethal munitions, such as the beanbag rounds that struck Coles in the jaw and neck. These munitions, which are fired from a standard 12-gauge shotgun, are small pouches of lead shot that fly through the air at nearly 200 miles an hour. Bean bag rounds are potentially lethal if fired at the head, neck, or other vital areas, so targeting these areas is forbidden. These rounds may not be fired indiscriminately into a crowd as they were in the port; rather, they can only be used to target specific individuals who pose an immediate threat.
Photo of Rachel Lederman by Mike Koozmin
Although it represented progress, says Lederman, “The policy itself is not a law. It’s a policy that’s binding within the police department. But the overarching principle of the crowd-control policy is that the police will respond to crowd events, particularly First Amendment political activity, with the minimum reliance on force.”
To ensure OPD’s compliance, Judge Henderson placed the crowd-control policy under federal court jurisdiction for three years. If police violated the policy during that period, the court could step in to enforce it.
The three-year court supervision ended in late 2007, after an uneventful period for political dissidence in Oakland. But just one year later, BART officer Johannes Mesherle shot passenger Oscar Grant in the back as Grant, who was unarmed, lay face-down on the platform at Fruitvale station. For the first time since its adoption, the crowd-control policy was put to the test: Grant’s death triggered waves of protests and riots, and it quickly became clear from OPD’s handling of these protests that the policy had not reformed the department. Just when federal enforcement of the crowd-control policy became more crucial than ever, the court’s oversight had vanished.
Large protests flared at virtually every step in Mesherle’s ensuing criminal trial. He was initially charged with murder in Grant’s death, but the charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter. On Nov. 5, 2010, Mesherle was sentenced to two years in prison, with credit for time served.
Later that evening, Grant supporters set out from downtown Oakland toward Fruitvale station in protest of the sentence. During this march, Lederman says, “We saw that police had pretty much dispensed with the crowd-control policy.” In fact, the events of that evening — and the revelations of the legal battle that followed — call into question whether the crowd-control policy had ever been properly instated in the first place.
The policy contains specific instructions for managing large crowds, including requirements that police declare an unlawful assembly, issue a dispersal order, announce routes by which the crowd can disperse, and give adequate time for demonstrators to do so before making a mass arrest. However, the march didn’t make it far before it was hemmed in by OPD. After surrounding the 150 demonstrators, an Oakland officer announced over a loudspeaker, “This has been declared a crime scene and you’re all under arrest.” None of the provisions for mass arrests outlined in the policy had been followed. (OPD did not return repeated requests for comment, but did provide crowd-control training records in response to a California Public Records Act request.)
Dispatch records revealed that only 10 minutes into the march, Deputy Chief Eric Breshears instructed former Capt. David Downing, who was responsible for crowd-control that night, “The first opportunity you can, set up a surround to arrest. We’d like to employ that.” He later added, “I’d like to not have the crowd cross Oak Street. If you could envelop and arrest before that, that would be great.”
Once the march was surrounded, Downing asked, “Do we want to make announcements for unlawful assembly or they’re already just under arrest?”
Breshears replied, “Affirm. Based on their activity over here, the vandalism that’s occurred, affirm that it’s unlawful assembly. You are to arrest everybody that’s within that perimeter.”
Despite Breshears’ mention of vandalism, only two of the arrestees that night were ever charged with a crime, and demonstrators allege that the march was overwhelmingly peaceful.
It’s unclear whether Breshears intentionally disregarded the policy when he gave the mass arrest order, or whether he was unaware of the requirements for mass arrests. Although the policy requires all officers be trained in crowd-control and receive “periodic crowd-control refresher training” throughout their careers, OPD’s records indicate that regular training did not take place. Breshears’ most recent training at the time of the arrests was a two-hour course in June 2009. Prior to that, he had attended two training sessions in 2005, when the policy was first instated.
Once again, the NLG filed suit against the department on behalf of demonstrators.
In a March 29, 2012, deposition, Downing admitted that he was unsure whether officers had ever been trained on crowd-control beyond his first one in 2005. When asked when he had received the training, Downing said, “More than likely a few years ago when the policy first came out and I know I had probably received at least one other update training during one of our command session training dates.” He said he could not recall when this update training may have taken place.
“Was it prior to 2010?” Lederman, who was taking his deposition, asked.
“Yes, I would say at least that,” he responded.
“Was it prior to 2009?” she asked.
“I can’t recall to that specificity,” he responded.
When asked if he had attended any crowd-control training since the mass arrests, he said no.
Downing had, in fact, attended two training sessions in 2005 and two sessions in 2009. His total training amounted to nine hours over the course of his career with OPD. From 2009, when the department’s crowd-control policy fell out of court oversight, to 2012, when it earned hefty criticism over its handling of Occupy Oakland protesters, OPD held no trainings on the policy.
Thomas Frazier, the compliance director who oversees OPD’s progress on the reforms mandated by the Riders settlement, wrote in a June 14, 2012, report that the department needed to improve its training on the crowd-control policy. Earlier that year, former police Chief Howard Jordan said that all OPD officers would undergo training by April 30. But in a June 14 memo responding to the Frazier report, Jordan wrote that development of the crowd management training curriculum was under way. It also stated that crowd-control training of all personnel was ongoing, despite the fact that the curriculum had not been completed.
In June 2013, the city of Oakland settled the Mesherle sentencing protest lawsuit for $1.025 million.
The year following Mesherle’s sentencing, a new form of political demonstration took root in downtown Oakland — an encampment inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Oakland demonstrators set up tents in October 2011.
Photo by Geoff King
In the wee hours of Oct. 25, 2011, Oakland police raided the camp, beginning their first of several battles with the Occupy movement. Over the next few months, OPD made hundreds of arrests, inflicting injury along the way.
Photo by Geoff King
Among those injured was Scott Campbell, who was shot in the upper thigh with a beanbag round while filming a police line on the night of Nov. 2, 2011. His shooter, Officer Victor Garcia, was under instruction from Capt. Ersie Joyner to shoot anyone who crossed a line demarcated by a scrap of toilet paper on the ground in front of the police. This boundary was never announced to Campbell; still, he did not cross over the paper toward the police but rather moved parallel to the line. Garcia’s shot was captured on his own Personal Digital Recording Device (a small video camera worn by officers and activated during contact with civilians), as well as Campbell’s camera. On Garcia’s PDRD, we see the officer tracking Campbell as he moved along the line. Despite taking careful aim at Campbell and having ample time to line up his shot, Garcia still hit Campbell in an area of the body that is not to be targeted unless lethal force is warranted.
“I was filming because we had seen before how useful video could be in cases of police violence,” Campbell says. “I decided to film the police lines in case they did something later in the evening, so we could identify who they were.”
Other peaceful demonstrators who were severely injured were Sukay Sow, Max Stiers, and Suzi Spangenberg. Sow’s foot was hit by a grenade and severely burned as she fled a cloud of tear gas. Stiers was shot in the elbow with a beanbag round as he went to the aid of a woman in a wheelchair who had been tear-gassed; he suffered a crushed tendon. Two grenades deployed at Spangenberg’s feet left her with partial hearing loss and permanent tinnitus, a condition that causes a constant, high-pitched ringing sound in her ears. “The intended effect of such a heavy, armed response was to spook people and that’s what it did,” says Stiers.
Labor organizers Brooke Anderson, Kevin Christensen, and Max Alper were all unlawfully arrested as they prepared to leave a peaceful protest. During their arrests, Officer Cesar Garcia entered the crowd, clubbed several people with his baton, and then stood back, not involving himself in the arrests. Garcia was later captured in PDRD video asking if he had to include the use of force in his report, laughing, “I jabbed one of them fat things friendly.”
OPD’s interactions with Occupy protesters once again made clear that the department had no intention of following its own crowd-control policy. The policy requires that less-lethal munitions be targeted against specific individuals. But throughout the Occupy movement’s tenure in Oakland, police indiscriminately used tear gas, beanbag rounds, and grenades against large crowds of peaceful protesters. Uses of force are intended to enable arrests, but, with the exception of Anderson, Christensen, and Alper, none of the injured demonstrators mentioned above were ever arrested.
The NLG again filed suit on behalf of the individuals listed above, citing OPD’s non-compliance with its crowd-control policy. The City of Oakland settled on July 3, 2013 for $1.17 million. As part of the settlement, the crowd-control policy was placed back under federal court supervision for an additional four-year period, which can be extended up to seven years if further violations occur.
Several other cases involving OPD’s most egregious actions against demonstrators are still making their way through the courts. Military veterans Scott Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull from a beanbag round, and Kayvan Sabehgi, whose spleen was ruptured during an unprovoked beating, are suing the department.
And on Jan. 28, 2012, OPD re-enacted the same tactic it used against Oscar Grant demonstrators in 2010, surrounding a march and conducting a mass arrest, without giving a dispersal order. This time, they arrested more than 400 people, including Coles. None were ever charged with a crime, but many spent more than two days in jail as officers struggled to process the backlog of arrests. A lawsuit over this incident is ongoing.
Although Coles is aware that the First Amendment guarantees her right to peacefully protest, she says it feels like that right is under threat in Oakland. “If you have an understanding, particularly a first-hand understanding, of the OPD, paranoia is par for the course,” she explains. In the days after she filed her lawsuit against the police in 2003, Coles says she received several threatening voicemails from anonymous callers, until finally she changed her phone number. She had nightmares about being attacked in her home.
Coles also became more cautious when attending protests — always riding her bike, staying a little away from the crowd, and constantly scanning for escape routes. These tactics weren’t enough to prevent her from being swept up in the Jan. 28 arrests. “The only conclusion I could surmise after that,” she says, “was that it was the intention of the police department, sanctioned by the City of Oakland, to intimidate Oakland residents from participating in any kind of political dissent, any kind of mass demonstration.”
Anderson and Christensen, both of whom were unlawfully arrested on Oct. 25, 2011, are seasoned labor activists. Christensen also attended the anti-war protest in the port in 2003, where he was tear-gassed while walking in a picket line. Both he and Anderson also attended several protests against the slaying of Oscar Grant. Over the years, Anderson says, “We’ve seen the pattern where OPD had used violent tactics, to be honest, to telegraph a message to the community that dissent won’t be tolerated.”
“They would rather do something they know is wrong and wait to see if someone is going to file a lawsuit,” Christensen adds, “than to not do it.”
Despite their experience, both Anderson and Christensen say they would attend demonstrations in Oakland in the future. Having a strong community of fellow activists who supported them throughout the experience made them feel less intimidated.
The same wasn’t true for Sow. “I feel like it’s a process. I haven’t been to a protest since. I feel like I would like to go back, but it’s going to be hard. I used to worry about the crowd doing something rather than the police, but now I feel the opposite.”
This kind of fear and intimidation is the worst-case scenario for Lederman, who helped draft the crowd-control policy with First Amendment protections in mind. She says she continued to bring litigation against OPD “to try to enforce the crowd-control policy, but what I mean by that is not the crowd-control policy itself, but rather to enforce the Constitution and the right to protest.”
OPD’s repeated violations of its crowd-control policy are part of the department’s systemic struggles. Incessant cutbacks, understaffing, and turnover in leadership — since 2003, Oakland has had six police chiefs, one of whom only held the position for 48 hours before resigning — contribute to its problems. Oakland is also consistently ranked as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the nation, making it no easy place to police.
But the department is also plagued by problem officers, whose repeated violence over the years continues to cost the city millions of dollars in settlement cash — with more settlements likely to come this summer.
In 2003, Coles was shot by one of four officers on a tactical squad known as a Tango Team that was revealed in court documents to include Christopher Del Rosario, R. Gutierrez, Patrick Gonzales, and Roland Holmgren.
It’s unclear which officer fired the beanbag round that actually hit her, but several of the officers have problematic histories.
In 2007, Del Rosario was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years probation after pulling a gun on bystanders who witnessed him assaulting his girlfriend on a Sonoma street. During his trial, Holmgren told the San Francisco Chronicle that Del Rosario had been on disability leave from the department for three years.
Gonzales and Holmgren also have histories of violence. Gonzales’ record was documented in a 2011 Color Lines investigation, which revealed that the city of Oakland has paid $3.6 million in settlement money in lawsuits related to Gonzales’ behavior on the force. Gonzales has been involved in at least four officer-involved shootings (incidents in which a police officer fires on a citizen). Holmgren has been involved in at least one shooting.
The members of the second Tango Team working in the port that day included Officer Frank Uu, who is identified in court documents as the officer who beat Sabeghi and ruptured his spleen on Nov. 2, 2011. Gonzales was Uu’s supervising officer that evening. Court documents state that Gonzales “failed to adequately supervise” Uu, and also “approved and condoned” his treatment of Sabeghi. At the time, Uu’s only crowd-control training had been a single one-hour session in 2005 (he attended a second session after the incident).
While the Oscar Grant demonstrators were contained on Nov. 5, 2010, an incident occurred that perhaps contributed to OPD’s decision to declare the area a crime scene. Officer Robert Roche accused a woman of stealing his partner’s gun. However, his partner’s incident report revealed that his holster had broken and he had only momentarily dropped his gun. The woman was never charged.
Roche has participated in at least three officer-involved shootings. The East Bay Express has also identified him as the officer who lobbed a grenade at demonstrators while they tried to rescue Olsen after he was shot in the head with a beanbag round on the night of Oct. 25, 2011.
Officer Cesar Garcia, who struck several demonstrators with his baton during the arrests of Anderson, Alper, and Christensen, has participated in two officer-involved shootings. He was joined in one of these by Capt. Ersie Joyner, who issued the commands on Nov. 2, 2011, that led to Campbell being shot in the leg with a beanbag round. Joyner has been involved in at least four other shootings, as well as the incident with Cesar Garcia.
Officer Victor Garcia, who acted on Joyner’s command and fired the beanbag round that hit Campbell, has participated in at least two officer-involved shootings.
Officer-involved shooting statistics hint at a deeper problem with violence in OPD. A 2010 internal study conducted by the San Francisco Police Department revealed that, over a five-year period, SFPD officers had participated in 15 shootings. Over the same period, OPD participated in approximately 40, despite the much smaller population OPD polices. The level of violence OPD metes out on a day-to-day basis bleeds over into the way the department handles protests.
Violent officers set an example for others in the department. PDRD video from Oct. 25, 2011, includes footage recorded in a police vehicle on its way to the raid on the Occupy camp. The video captures a conversation between several officers, one of whom noted that occupiers have constructed a fence out of pallets and bikes around the camp to keep officers out. He continued, “At least by this point, they realize if they do have kids in there or something stupid like that you’d hope they’d already have had them out. That way we can just go straight into the savage beating.”
“The history is so long and it’s been so entrenched,” Lederman says. “Having officers who were involved in officer-involved shootings then being the same officers who are using the less-lethal munitions against demonstrators — it’s all interwoven.”
Ten years after she first began working on OPD’s crowd-control policy, Lederman feels frustrated that reforms are taking so long. “It’s not only 10 years of the crowd-control policy, it’s 10 years of the NSA [the negotiated settlement agreement in the Rider’s case that required OPD to implement systemic reform] and they haven’t cared. Not only have the police not cared, the city government hasn’t cared and hasn’t been able to get basic reforms done. If there was a basic culture of accountability, that would also improve the crowd-control issues.”
Additional scrutiny seems to help force a culture of accountability into place. Since receiving criticism for its handling of Occupy in the fall of 2011, OPD has begun holding crowd-control training sessions again, with several taking place throughout 2012 and early 2013.
Even though his legal case has been settled, Campbell still feels uneasy about OPD’s ability to reform. “I think they’re extremely resistant to the message that they need to reform,” he says. “I would like to think, with all the new oversight in place, that something like this won’t happen again.”
Stiers, one of the plaintiffs injured on Oct. 25, adds, “My only hope is that this suit and the others that are in litigation will help spur policy to prevent abuse, misconduct, and brutality in the future. There needs to be proper oversight, period.”
Police have applied force at Oakland demonstrations, but without using it purposefully. The crowd-control policy specifies that force can be used as a means to an arrest; however, none of the NLG’s plaintiffs were charged with violating any law when they were shot, beaten, or arrested. The wanton use of force does not remove troublemakers from crowds; it merely creates an atmosphere of fear that intimidates protesters from exercising their constitutional rights.
OPD has shown that it won’t reform without a fight — and citizens will continue to be caught in the crossfire. In the meantime, negotiations are under way to revise the crowd-control policy. “All the protections and restrictions of the existing policy are intact or strengthened,” Lederman says. “The question is going to be whether OPD can comply.”
A 53 year old man was killed by Oakland Police early this morning (July 8th, 2013) as they attempted to bring him into custody for a psychological evaluation. At this point the only version of this killing is coming from the Oakland Police and was distributed by Johnna Watson who was not present during the killing and is paid essentially to do damage control in the hours following a police killing or action.
You can see Johnna Watson doing damage control in this WeCopwatch video in which a house was gassed and raided.
Oakland SWAT Team deploys Gas during Raid in West Oakland 10/15/12
WeCopwatch is strongly against Police making contact with people in distress. Oakland needs to find solutions to helping people who are upset, or in mental anguish without involving armed people who know they can kill with impunity. One thing is for sure, Oakland Police are mandated to activate their PDRD’s (mounted chest cameras) when interacting with people, so this killing is on video.
by Jacob Crawford and Dave Id
Image by Elijah Nouvelage
Twelve people injured by the Oakland police department during Occupy Oakland demonstrations have settled a federal civil rights lawsuit with the city of Oakland for a total of $1.17 million. The injuries came as a result of OPD’s violent response to Occupy Oakland on October 25 and November 2, 2011. The settlement in the Campbell vs. City of Oakland case comes on the heals of another $1 million settlement still pending final approval, Spalding vs.City of Oakland.
Photo by Dave Id
As a result of both cases, OPD has agreed to allow the federal court to enforce OPD’s compliance with its own crowd control policy and to negotiate with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and ACLU before making any changes to the policy, which prohibits police from shooting “less lethal” impact munitions or tossing explosive teargas grenades into crowds, and prohibits mass arrests without warning or opportunity to disperse.
The videos below document the cases of four of the Occupy Oakland plaintiffs in two separate incidents. The videos reveal police violence through the video of plaintiffs, witnesses, and neverbeforeseen Oakland police chest cameras.
While there were many incidents investigated in the Occupy Oakland Campbell lawsuit, the following two incidents of police violence have similarities that underscore serious problems within the Oakland Police Department.
The first video below is of Scott Campbell being shot by a leadshot filled beanbag round following Oakland’s General Strike on the night of November 2, 2011.
In the case of Scott Campbell, the command to shoot anyone crossing an invisible line is illegitimate. How could people know they were in harm’s way? Less than lethal weapons are supposedly intended for situations where violence is taking place and the officer needs to defend themselves and other officers. This is simply not the case with Scott Campbell. As you can see in the video Scott is not approaching the line, but rather walking parallel to it. As you can see Oakland police officer Victor Garcia waits until Campbell is almost out of view to fire at him. Not because Campbell suddenly takes a turn towards the police line, or poses a threat, but Garcia fires at him because he can see that Campbell was just an inch over the invisible line marked by a roll of toilet paper. Garcia didn’t shoot to defend or protect, he shot because he knew he could get away with it by deliberately misinterpreting his commander’s order to fire at anyone who crossed the invisible line.
The second video below is of the violent arrests of Brooke Anderson, Max Alper, and Kevin Christensen following the raid of Occupy Oakland on the morning of October 25, 2011.
Those people attacked and arrested had done nothing wrong. You can see Oakland police officer Cesar Garcia goes into the crowd with his baton ready, and ends up striking Max Alper several times. Then later he is caught on video visibly upset that he has to document his use of force in a report because he “jabbed one of the fat things friendly.”
After you have watched both videos, consider:
1. Both Garcias have been in multiple officer involved shootings. Victor Garcia has shot two people as well as an arthritic dog that posed no threat. Cesar Garcia has also been in multiple officer involved shootings. (see Jones vs Oakland reference at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/02/06/18731467.php)
2. Both officers were under the command of officers who have been involved in shootings. Oakland police Captain Ersie Joyner has been in involved in five shootings, one with Cesar Garcia in fact, and Oakland police lieutenant Fred Mestas has been involved in at least two shootings.
3. Both Garcias showed premeditation in their acts of violence. Victor Garcia knowing the order was to shoot anyone who crossed the invisible line, trained his gun on Scott Campbell as he walked parallel to the line and waited until he saw that Campbell was just an inch past the line before shooting. Cesar Garcia was the only cop who had his baton out ready to swing when Lt Mestas ordered the arrests.
4. In both incidents, both officers used excessive violence not merely because they are violent officers but, more importantly, because they knew they could get away with it. Joyner and Mestas were both responsible for the incidents and the actions of
While the both Garcia’s need to be held accountable for their actions, both Joyner and Mestas should be held to even higher standards as commanding officers. But in Oakland as you can see, you’re more likely to be promoted if you shoot people. . .
WeCopwatch Season 1: We survived our first four months! Covering Drones, Feds, Officer Involved Shootings, Mental Health Incidents, A Police Murder, Raids, Police Harassment and the Mayor of Oakland! Check out some of or all of the videos WeCopwatch has produced below.
Drone spotted above West Oakland
February 8th, 2013
If Pigs Could Fly: Police Drones Across Oakland
February 13th, 2013
Oakland Police Didn’t Shoot Someone?
February 22, 2013
Answers! Not Undercovers! Berkeley Police and the Kayla Moore coverup
March 15th, 2013
Breaking Down (Police Hurt Mental Health)
March 28th, 2013
Oakland Police Shoot Innocent Teen in the Face
April 3, 2013
Oakland Police Keep Officer Involved Shooting Off the Radio
April 5th, 2013
Officer Frankel Claims That “NOBODY” Killed Kayla Moore
The Feds Are In Town (Multiple Raids Occur Across Oakland)
April 24th, 2013
“Pigs are Haram!” Undercover Police Confronted on May Day
May 1, 2013
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan Drags Off Aggressive Husband
May 3rd, 2013
Witness Testimony regarding incident with Mayor Jean Quan and Husband
May 9th, 2013
Oakland Police Shine Light into WeCopwatch Camera
June 7, 2013
Oakland Police Commands Are InAudible
June 8th, 2013
Interview with Larken Rose: Author of When You Should Shoot a Cop
On November 5th, 2010, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of Oakland City Hall to protest the light sentence given to Johannes Mehserle for killing Oscar Grant by shooting him in the back in front of hundreds of witnesses. As evening fell, marchers took to the streets and headed toward the Fruitvale BART station, the scene of the shooting on January 1, 2009. Oakland police, however, had other plans. One hundred and fifty demonstrators were detained and arrested, forced to spend up to twenty-four hours in police custody under inhumane conditions. As no one arrested was ever even charged, the arrests and jailing amounted to illegal extrajudicial punishment of protesters for merely exercising their right to free speech and protest police brutality. In a class action settlement between arrestees and the City of Oakland announced today by the National Lawyers Guild, the city has not only acknowledged that the arrests were illegal but has agreed to pay $1.025 million in compensation to the plaintiffs and their attorneys. Additionally, Oakland police have given their consent to abide by a revised crowd control policy meant to avoid such unnecessary harm to protesters in the future and to have their adherence to the policy overseen by the court for a period of up to seven years. The NLG rightfully calls the settlement an "important victory for democracy."
[Photo of November 5th march on 14th Street, just east of Broadway, by Felix Barrett]
Just last week the Grand Lake Theater rolled out the red carpet for the Oakland premiere of the highly anticipated and award winning new film "Fruitvale Station," which documents the last day in the life of Hayward resident Oscar Grant before BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot him in the back. In attendance were the movie’s stars such as Octavia Spencer and Michael B. Jordan, director Ryan Coogler, and producer Forest Whitaker. It was a private screening, however, as the film doesn’t officially open to the public nationwide until July 12th.
Unfortunately, leaders of the Oscar Grant Foundation were largely placed in charge of deciding who else besides the cast and crew would be invited to the premiere and they chose to invite a wide array of establishment leaders including Mayor Quan and the entire city council, even BART’s new chief of police, Kenton Rainey, and and array of corporate media rather than predominantly those who had been on the front lines of the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant such as Oscar Grant’s closest friends, community activists, and independent journalists. Despite the fact that the invitation list left dozens of open seats in the theater, Oscar Grant’s friends who were on the Fruitvale station platform with him when he was killed were not originally invited. Neither were their families. Neither were most of organizers and community activists who fought long and hard for justice for Oscar Grant. It took deliberate behind the scenes advocacy to get Oscar Grant’s friends into the show and a community activist or two managed to successfully insist at the doors of the theater that they be allowed to view the screening.
And yet, if any justice was achieved for Oscar Grant, through the first-of-its-kind-in-California felony manslaughter conviction of Mehserle, police reform efforts at BART, or the early retirements of disgraced figures such as BART police chief Gary Gee and Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, it was community activists and not city leaders who made that happen. With the exception of a few council members who had their moments at times standing up for justice — such as Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan, who once attempted to prevent police violence against protesters in the streets only to later incur the wrath of OPD themselves, or Desley Brooks, who alternated between adamantly calling out the misdeeds of BART police and refusing to allow the voices of Oakland’s youth to be heard on the matter — city leaders largely worked against the movement for justice for Oscar Grant.
Nevertheless, with today’s announcement of a settlement in the Spalding vs. The City of Oakland class action lawsuit, up to 150 community activists, protesters, and legal observers will soon get their comeuppance for abuses dished out by the Oakland police and Alameda County sheriff’s departments on the night of Mehserle’s sentencing. One hundred and fifty two people were illegally corralled, or "kettled," and arrested by Oakland police on November 5, 2010, but two were charged with individual offenses (both of which allegedly occurred after the kettling) and are not a part of the class definition. Each of those arrested for "unlawful assembly" but never charged — granted they submit a claim form with the National Lawyers Guild by August 5, 2013 (see PDFs here) — is entitled to approximately $4,500 as compensation for their illegal arrest by Oakland police that night and the degradations they suffered while in the Alameda county sheriff’s custody at Santa Rita jail.
It was ironic that Oakland police had chosen that night to kettle and arrest so many people. Organizers of the daytime vigil and rally had gone out of their way to seek city permits for the event, when most justice for Oscar Grant protests had defiantly been organized without seeking the consent of city officials. Organizers had even worked with city leaders and police on arranging a route for the march that was to follow the rally in front of City Hall in Frank Ogawa plaza, now commonly referred to as Oscar Grant plaza. Organizers submitted plans for a march route to Defremery (or LIttle Bobby Hutton) Park in West Oakland. OPD originally approved the route, then demanded an alternate route, seeming to object to a march all together. Organizers eventually cancelled plans for a city-approved march, leaving it to those in attendance in the plaza to decide what they should do after the rally, even though it was common knowledge that demonstrators would most likely want to march in protest of Mehserle’s light sentence.
It was especially ironic that the night Oakland police chose to arrest the largest number of people at any Oscar Grant demonstration ever would be the one where there was little to no property destruction, save for temporary construction fencing surrounding the abandoned Henry J. Kaiser convention center which wasn’t actually destroyed, just pushed to over allowing marchers to continue southeast toward the Fruitvale BART station when police first attempted a kettle on 10th Street. There were also reports of a small handful of car windows being damaged. But, compared with the countless smashed storefronts and multiple cars set afire or the hundreds of pairs of Nike shoes liberated from a Foot Locker outlet at previous Oscar Grant rebellions, pushing over a fence and possibly breaking some windows was relatively mild. Besides, arresting and sending to jail 150 people for the actions of a few is clearly overbroad and unjust.
It was not surprising, though, that Oakland police chose to kettle and arrest so many people that night. City leaders had long grown weary of huge numbers of people publicly, and often angrily, demanding an end to police violence against people of color. Then-chief Anthony Batts had made numerous statements about the protests needing to stop, that there did not need to be one at each and every milestone during the trial of Johannes Mehserle. And so he and the Oakland police department set out to do just that on November 5, 2010, to stop the protests cold, by any means necessary. There was the first attempt at a kettle on 10th Street between the Henry J building and Laney College as marchers merely walked down the darkened street. With nothing major to point to in order to justify the mass arrests, the official excuse for the actual kettling on 6th Avenue came over the corporate media wires shortly thereafter, that a protester had grabbed a police officer’s gun and holster as chief Batts claimed at a press conference that night. But the snatching of a gun never actually happened, as Batts knew at the time. Instead what really happened was an officer Keith Geiger’s holster broke as he tackled a protester, so the gun-grab ruse was quickly dropped by OPD the following day, although the damage had already been done as the corporate media reported the initial gun grab remarks by Batts but never followed up with questions about the claims later.
And so, while there was never a dispersal order from police as is required by OPD’s own crowd control policy, demonstrators were trapped on 6th Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets by hundreds of police officers. A few lucky ones managed to escape the kettle by jumping residential fences, but others who attempted to do so were nabbed and roughed up by police who were waiting on side streets. From there it only got worse. Media were allowed to leave the kettle, but not legal observers such as class representative Dan Spalding. Those left behind remained for hours on the street as police handcuffed them and placed them into vans and buses for transport to Santa Rita jail. The arrests were purportedly for "unlawful assembly," but according to California law, most misdemeanors are to be treated as "cite and release" offenses — and in fact no charges were actually ever filed against any of those arrested that night.
In effect, the arrests were illegal extrajudicial punishment enforced by the Oakland police and Alameda County sheriff’s departments at the behest of city leaders. Those arrested spent well over an hour waiting to be transported, hours more waiting in the buses in front of Santa Rita while they were processed into the jail, and during this entire time everyone was denied access to use of rest rooms and medical treatment that might be required. Conditions in the jail were so cramped that most arrestees did not even have the space to lie down on the floor throughout the night. Women were further degraded by being forced to take pregnancy tests (a broader issue that was not resolved in the Spalding case, but as a result of new sheriff’s procedures being instituted for mass arrests, women who are arrested in a mass arrests will not be pregnancy tested). Food was not provided for up to twelve hours. And it was roughly twenty-four hours before the last arrestee was released. All for an "offense" that was never even charged and, even if it was, protesters should have been issued a citation and promptly released.
More importantly perhaps on a broader scale than the monetary compensation for those arrested, though, looking forward at least, is that the National Lawyers Guild has again legally bound the Oakland police department to its own crowd control policy, this time with the added security of court enforcement should future violations occur. The most recent crowd control policy was the result of a previous civil suit brought against OPD by the NLG over the police attack against anti-war demonstrators at the Port of Oakland in 2003. One of the largest issues tackled when the policy was finalized in 2005 and agreed to by all parties, including OPD, was OPD’s use of projectile weapons against non-violent demonstrators; OPD had caused serious injuries by firing wooden dowels and beanbags at the heads of protesters on April 7, 2003. (More recently, violations of this section of the policy were blatantly disregarded during the Occupy Oakland demonstrations when, for instance, a bean bag was fired close-range at Scott Olsen’s face, a bean bag was shot at Scott Campbell‘s groin area, and countless non-violent others were hit all over with pepper balls and other projectiles and offensive weaponry.)
As for the Spalding settlement, one of the most relevant sections of the 2005 crowd control policy regards when an unlawful assembly may be declared and the guidelines for declaring one. Quite clearly, the policy reads: "The mere failure to obtain a permit, such as a parade permit or sound permit, is not a sufficient basis to declare an unlawful assembly. There must be criminal activity or a clear and present danger of imminent violence (pg 11)." There was no clear and present danger as the marchers walked down 10th Street into the first attempted kettle or 6th Avenue into the final one. The policy continues: "When the only violation present is unlawful assembly, the crowd should be given an opportunity to disperse rather than face arrest." This absolutely did not happen on November 5. The goal obviously was to end the demonstration, period, rather than deter or break-up some sort of threatening or illegal behavior. And throughout the history of the Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant, if any property destruction did occur, it was downtown, not in East Oakland on the way to or from the Fruitvale station, as marchers were clearly headed on November 5.
The most significant aspects of the injunctive relief in the Spalding case may very well be twofold. The revised section of crowd control policy should go a long way towards relieving OPD of their nasty habit of arresting demonstrators on bogus charges that will never be filed by the District Attorney, just to let protesters accused of no specific felonious crime languish in jail for as many days as possible. The specific section that was updated, on "CITE AND RELEASE PROCEDURE (pg 18)," has been made substantially more clear, specifying the handful of reasons that a protester cited with a misdemeanor is *not* to be released. Otherwise, those generally expressing their free speech rights should not be booked into jail, ever. And, as stated in the existing policy, "Individuals may not be arrested based on their association with a crowd in which unlawful activity has occurred. There must be probable cause for each individual arrest (pg 16)." And now, OPD’s crowd control policy comes with court enforcement for a period of up to seven years, which can be extended if OPD is not living up to their own policies. Furthemore, there is a comprehensive crowd control policy revision process currently happening, in which OPD and the Compliance Director are meeting and conferring with the NLG , ACLU, and attorney Jim Chanin, as the Spalding settlement requires. It’s almost hard to imagine what the National Lawyers Guild has been able to achieve here. If it can be implemented as agreed upon, and enforced by the court, a great deal of unnecessary suffering normally inflicted by OPD upon protesters can be avoided.
Sadly, looking back, and other factors may have played a role, but there were no large demos for Oscar Grant after the November 5 kettle, nor for any Oakland police murder since that time, although the movement for justice for Alan Blueford has certainly kicked up some dust at city council meetings and elsewhere. Without a doubt, free speech was definitely stifled by police actions on November 5, 2010. Cynics might say that the large financial settlement in the Spalding case is the price that the city is willing to pay in order to quash large scale dissent over police brutality, the cost of business as usual in Oakland. The city has certainly paid out millions of dollars in dozens of other individual and class action cases involving police corruption, brutality, and killings — yet the police violence and financial settlements continue. More than likely, the city similarly will pay dearly for the more recent police abuses committed during the time of Occupy Oakland, including for the much larger kettling of over four hundred people in front of the downtown YMCA on January 28, 2012, and for the countless physical injuries inflicted on protesters and independent journalists on October 25 and November 2, 2011, and other days.
Oakland police more or less did the same thing to the anti-war movement in 2003 as it did to the justice for Oscar Grant movement in 2009-2010 and the Occupy movement in 2011-2012. It remains to be seen if there have been or will be any real lessons learned by Oakland police and city leaders — if they indeed feel the pain of local taxpayers continually having to compensate the seemingly never-ending list of OPD’s victims — or if the next large protest movement will be just another in a long line of social justice movements to suffer illegal abuses at the hands of Oakland police, with a nod and a wink, and sometimes open cheering, from the pusillanimous elected democrats who supposedly run this town.
One thing you can count on, though, is that the National Lawyers Guild is watching the police, intently, and will continue to fight for the people’s right to assemble and demonstrate against injustices without unconstitutional state repression. The NLG deserves the support of everyone who cares about social justice in this country.