Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Video on The Police-State Reaction to Occupy Oakland

In a press release dated October 25, Joanna Watson of the Media Relations office at the Oakland Police Department, denied that the police used non-lethal "rubber" bullets and "flash-bang" or concussion grenades on protesters. Here is the relevant quote from the press release:

Q. Did the Police deploy rubber bullets, flash-bag grenades?
A. No, the loud noises that were heard originated from M-80 explosives thrown at Police by protesters. In addition, Police fired approximately four bean bag rounds at protesters to stop them from throwing dangerous objects at the officers.

(The full press release can be found here)

After the of an Oakland PD Officer throwing a concussion grenade into a group of protesters who are trying to give aid to a woman who has fallen and injured herself.

I have to admit that I can scarcely believe what this video clearly shows. Namely that the police, at least in Oakland, can be easily persuaded to overlook their credo "to serve and protect", unless of course this is understood as applying only to the interests of the Corporate plutocracy. They certainly seem uninterested in protecting the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of Assembly of the protesters, nor do they appear at all concerned for the physical health and well-being of the people, who they lob concussion grenades at with callous disregard.

How callous is their disregard?

Here is a video at the scene by a filmmaker named Abby Martin with the group "Media Roots". Warning: There is some very free, and unedited, speech in this video:

What Ms. Martin captures very well here is the utter disregard for the people these police show. They seem to be, as one commenter on Youtube aptly puts it, "zombies" responding with violence to peaceful demonstrations, and protecting the (criminally) accumulated wealth of the 1% while blankly and silently staring off into the distance. Not one of them offers a non-pathological reply to the honest, humane, questions put to them.

I for one am in utter dismay at these developments, what do our readers think?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. There is no violence in Ms. Martin's video, that I see; the police men and woman are just standing around (often while being berated). I wonder what was happening at 3:17 that she cut or didn't film.

    I have no reason to assume that the police were impeccable, either in their general aims or the execution of such (the first video is indeed disturbing, though I suppose it's possible that the officer who threw the grenade did not see the reason for which a crowd had started to form); but peaceful demonstrations? Are you contesting, then, the claim that police officers were assaulted and struck with various thrown objects (in the press release)? (I don't see the Q/A you provide in the linked press release.)

  3. Dan...

    I fixed the link to the correct press release, the one released earlier in the day, with the Q & A describing events in the early morning hours of the 25th.

    It is my understanding, from reading several eyewitness account and viewing video evidence on youtube, that the Oakland Police instigated the "violence" in this case. They brought over 500 police in riot gear and gas masks to Grant Plaza at 4:00am, to "clear the camp" with tear gas, flash bang grenades, and non-lethal (bean-bag) rounds. They made 85 arrests.

    The next evening, the protesters regrouped and marched to re-occupy the camp. This time, they used paint, and have been accused of throwing bottles and rocks, though to my knowledge no video has been made public of these bottle/rock attacks on helmeted, armored, police.

    So I am skeptical of the police claims, except about the paint, of which there is evidence.

    I think the police and mayor's office have made a terrible mistake in employing these heavy-handed tactics, when most municipalities have shown restraint and friendliness toward the movement.

  4. We are all Scott Olsen.

  5. Thanks for the reply. From reading the press report, it doesn't look like the police "instigated" any violence in clearing the camp; at least, in any sense that implies culpability for the reported violence on the part of demonstrators (to the extent that it occurred). Were there not good reasons, or at a minimum, legal grounds, for clearing the camp (and, in that connection, arresting those who were obstructing that aim)? If so, then such violence was unjustified.

    It seems like Oakland law enforcement had been showing "restraint and friendliness" (according to the press release the demonstrations had been going on for two weeks), that this mess started with protestors refusing to comply with the directive to end the overnight camping in the Plaza, and that the police admittedly made serious mistakes of their own (such as displayed in the first video) in responding to protestors in the wake of the clearing of the camp and the related arrests.

  6. Dan,

    we are not going to baited into a meaningless exchange over culpability. The Corporate plutocracy via its bought and paid for gov't stooges, maintains a monopoly on the use of force. The protesters in that square were self-governing and non-threatening. If you believe they posed any legitimate safety or health risk to the public, then you are clearly biased by the pro-plutocracy media (which the 1% also own). On the pretense of a threat that did not in fact exist, 500 police in riot gear stormed a tent city with tear gas canisters at 4:30am when they hoped no one would be watching.

    But they made a mistake. We're everywhere. We see everything they do. We can't be silenced, and we can't be ignored.

    And they no they're busted. Why else would they have requested that Google remove videos showing them in the act of gassing and grenading American citizens?

  7. "Stormed a tent city" etc.? Are you claiming that the early morning action to enforce the order to de-camp was carried out by means of an actual attack on the camp (with tear gas etc.), or just that law enforcement were equipped with such measures when they showed up? (I'm assuming the latter.) As for the timing, perhaps you're right about the motive; though there are alternative explanations (such as, if you want to distinguish between those violating the restriction against overnight camping and those who are demonstrating legally, it makes things easier to show up early in the morning).

    My belief that the encampment at the Plaza had generated problems justifying an order by the city to de-camp (more accurately, my refraining from assuming such's falsity) is based on the press report you linked to (and other reports I found on the same website). I suppose that if this multi-faceted account is simply a fabrication, then the Oakland PD could legitimately be seen as instigating something by actually enforcing an order given four days earlier. Although, even if the encampment was not causing any of these problems, I am not aware of a right to set up a tent city in a public place (to start residing there, in effect) that the city was obligated to honor.

    If city officials indeed requested that Google remove videos, it may well be because of embarrassment over the actions of law enforcement. I haven't claimed that the OPD responded impeccably to the reported violence that led them to give an order to disperse later in the day on the 25th. I've questioned the idea that they did anything to justify any of the violence or resistance more generally that preceded.

  8. Tell it to Scott Olsen, Dan.

    See you at the General Strike:

  9. Tell what to him? I think I've been clear that I'm not defending the police tactics or execution thereof Tuesday evening. I've questioned the idea that (1) these measures were enacted in response to peaceful demonstrations, and the idea that, (2) to the extent that the preceding demonstrations were violent, the OPD instigated it by their actions that morning. You won't see me at the General Strike; let's hope there isn't more violence, either by demonstrators or law enforcement, when the 2,000+ deciding to strike try to "liberate" the city of roughly 400,000 by, e.g., "helping" students walk out of school.

  10. Dan,

    here are the facts on record. Prior to the predawn raid Tuesday on Oscar Grant Plaza, there were no reports of violence toward police or civic authorities. No one has gone on record claiming that there were any acts of physical violence or aggression toward the Police.

    The raid took the form of hundreds of armed, trained, and armored Law "enforcement" agents forming an intimidating perimeter around the plaza. They then proceeded to tear gas American Citizens, both protesters and members of the media, without warning, going to far as physically assault members of the media who'd stayed to observe the operation after many MSM had chosen to remove themselves to a safe distance. After gassing the Citizens, the police moved through the camp, physical accosting the remaining protestors, and destroying and confiscating camp property.

    Video evidence, as well as an eyewitness account, can be found here:

    Given that these facts are a matter of public record, it strains credulity for you to continue to express doubt that the police instigated the escalation on behalf of the protesters. Yes Tuesday night many (but not by any means all) of the protestors were angry and aggressive, but their aggressive (though utterly non-threatening)response was understandable given the trauma they'd suffered earlier in the day.

    The real question here is why you persist in painting a portrait of syncophant-ish kowtowing to the brutality, and immorality, of the plutocratic state's response?

    The state chose this escalation, not the people. Your protestations to the contrary are as guileless as they are dishonest.

  11. It's virtually impossible to prevent a right-wing troll infestation. The best thing you can do is avoid feeding them once they arrive.

  12. philosopher,

    Thanks for the link to that report about the raid on the encampment. I think it's tragic and inexcusable that this reporter was assaulted and later tear-gassed along with some other reporters. I don't see it claimed there that the police employed aggressive tactics (such as gas) against the camp itself, though I do see such in this report:

    Assuming that the aggressive tactics were pre-emptive and gratuitious, as opposed to in response to violent resistance at the camp (which I'm willing to assume, given, e.g., the assaults on the media), I no longer question (2). It looks like the actions of the police in this raid were simply inexcusable (it would be interesting to know whether the malfeasance both in the morning and evening emanated specifically from officers of a certain city's department, such as Oakland's; the operations were undertaken by more than just the Oakland PD).

    What I find strange is the idea that there is anything dishonest about submitting to certain claims you make (in this case, the claim that police instigated the later-in-the-day aggressiveness by demonstrators) only after evidence has been produced to support them. I never assumed that the police did not act disgracefully in the pre-dawn activity. I withheld agreement to the idea that they did, in the absence of seeing reports confirming your claim.

    (Perhaps you thought that the idea that police actually employed aggressive tactics, in a gratuitous way, in clearing the camp in the morning was a bit of common ground between us. It wasn't. I took you to be defending the instigation-charge on the grounds that the de-campment order itself was unjustified and concocted upon pretense; and we still disagree on that.)

  13. Dan,

    I agree with you that we the people should definitely be able to find who, of the 18 "law enforcement" agencies represented was actually responsible for giving the order/making the decision to deploy tear gas against the camp in the first place, and that person should fired, and placed on trial before the public. As should the "law enforcement" agent who shot Eric Olsen in the head at point blank range with a tear gas canister, and the office caught on tape lobbing a concussion grenade at protesters trying to render life-saving aid to injured man. All three acts are in criminal violation of the rights of the people.

    As for the de-campment order, of course it was unjustified. The 1st Amendment reads:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    It says nothing about to peacefully assemble "during plaza operating hours" or "in gov't sanctioned times and places".

    Permitted speech is not free speech. Free assembly is not permitted assembly. Any move the gov't makes to curtail the freedom of assembly is unjustified.

    Gov't thinks there are unsanitary conditions at the camp? Work with the people to clean them. Gov't suspect criminal activity (drugs) at the camp? Work with the people to give police access and movement to find and arrest perpetrators.

    Work with the people, work for the people, and none of the violence and terror followed would have been necessary. But will all know, and we're all out there because we know, the Gov't does not work with or for the people. It works with and for the Corporate plutocracy.

  14. According to the above-linked report (in the opening post), as well as this report,, officials (and not merely police) were denied access to the camp. They tried to work with it before dismantling it.

    Of course the 1st Amendment itself does not include qualifying clauses such as "during plaza operating hours," but there are qualifications. E.g., polygamy is prohibited by law, and yet this precludes the free practice of certain aspects of certain religions. I'm out of my depth here, but to whatever extent the clause on peaceable assembly is taken to imply a right, not merely to assemble, but to assemble in the relevant, particular way (i.e., camping out in the place of assembly, residing there in effect), to that extent, I suppose, the burden (perhaps undischarged) was on city officials to try whatever they could to work with the camp before ordering its removal.