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[icon] My Occupy Oakland observations - Patti
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Subject:My Occupy Oakland observations
Time:02:10 pm
I posted this to a private mailing list this morning, then decided I wanted to send it to a wider audience.



Warning: long.


My account is only partially first-hand. I live in Oakland, about half a mile from where the protests were happening.

I learned about the mess at about 7 p.m. when I was still at my office. I found a live video feed while the group was at Lake Merritt, and watched them vote on whether to march to Jack London Square (where I live), or back to 14th and Broadway (where they had been camping.) 14th and Broadway won by a huge margin, so I hopped in my car and dashed home in case they changed their minds later.

When I got close to home I checked the location of the several helicopters that were hovering in order to verify that the coast was clear. It was-- the protesters stayed downtown.

ABC7 news had a helicopter up for most of the night, and they broadcast live video while they were up. Additionally, a few different citizen journalists broadcast live video of the event through much of the evening. I also closely followed what people were tweeting throughout the evening by following the #occupyoakland tag on Twitter. I went up to my building's roof a few times to check on helicopter count and location.

I've lived in Oakland for almost ten years now. I've seen protests turn into riots. I've seen violence and destruction when angry crowds turn into mobs. When I look at it from this perspective, I understand why the OPD was on very high alert last night. I can see why they would fear that things would turn ugly.

As far as I have been able to tell, the protesters were peaceful. It's almost certain that a couple of bad apples existed, and that the occasional water bottle was thrown, but the people who were there discouraged that and strongly condemned the bad actors for such things.

I saw live video of police using large amounts of tear gas-- enough that it was impossible to see through it on the video. I saw video of multiple journalists being tear gassed, and at least one journalist was deliberately knocked to the ground by OPD. I saw photos of several protesters who were wounded either by rubber bullets or bean bags. Although the police claim they were not using rubber bullets, I saw photos where people had picked them up from the ground. I saw what were almost certainly flash bang grenades going off, although OPD denies that they were used.

The most horrifying video that I saw was this: police tear gassed the crowd. People ran, as expected. One person fell to the ground, apparently injured, and several people ran back to help them. While they were attempting to assist the fallen individual, a grenade was deliberately thrown and landed right by the victim's head. The victim is now in intensive care.

Oh, look, BoingBoing just posted a video of it:

http://boingboing.net/2011/10/26/occupy-oakland-video-shows-police-officer-thro wing-flash-grenade-into-crowd-trying-to-help-injured-protester.html

I am appalled and disgusted with my city's police force and government.

This morning I had to go to Chase bank in downtown Oakland, which is about six blocks away from where the protesters were centered. Chase is one of the two banks in NY that had people arrested when they came in to close their accounts en masse. Both of the ATMs at this branch were smashed last night:

http://yfrog.com/gz4d1dpuj

There are several other banks within a one-block radius of this Chase branch. None of the others were damaged in any way. I do not condone destruction of property. This was not a violent, destructive "mob", and this is the only property damage that I have heard of as a result of last night's protests. At least once, I saw the protesters sit down in the middle of the intersection to have a meditation circle. That's about as far from violent as you can get.
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schmengie
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 09:16 pm (UTC)
that video looks pretty cut and dried even to me. shameful...
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greeklady
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:03 pm (UTC)
Wow. Just wow.

I still don't understand what they are trying to accomplish by protesting. I will give them the fact that OPD is clearly in the wrong in the way they treated that poor injured guy and the flash bang that went off when people tried to help him. Not OK.
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tigerknight
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 11:14 pm (UTC)
Awareness mostly.

A shake-up/wake-up to the glassy eyed do-as-you're-told populace, and encouragement of the idea that it is OK (and furthermore, a responsibility) to speak up when you don't like how the government has done something. Whether that's student loan insanity, 'too big to fail' bailouts that have not done anything except prolong business domination of the government, or tax immunity of rich individuals and megacorps that make billions in profit and pay zero back into the system that they take ridiculous advantage of.

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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 03:57 am (UTC)
For sure.

I still don't understand what they are trying to accomplish by protesting.

After all, no one has ever changed the course of history by organizing protests and massive civil disobedience. What idiots.
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usernamenumber
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 02:04 pm (UTC)
I had the same question. The conclusion I reached is that these conversations are, at least in part, the answer.
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rmd
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the write-up.
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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:19 pm (UTC)
That cop that threw the grenade made a very bad judgement call, but I hesitate to paint the entire police force as at fault for that. Was it a sample of one incident or did this happen a lot more?

-R
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:24 pm (UTC)
That is a fine question. It's the most egregious use of force that I'm aware of.

The bigger question is why force was used at all. The police should have been there to keep the peace, but the peace was kept... there was no reason for them to have been throwing tear gas and other nasties.

I think there's fault to be laid at the feet of the OPD for the manner in which they handled it. The bigger fault belongs to Mayor Quan, and/or whoever ordered the use of force.
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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:30 pm (UTC)
I mostly agree with you, but I think that it is a leadership issues with OPD, not the fault of the guys with riot gear on.

-R
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janinedog
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:36 pm (UTC)
From this post, it sounds like the decision was made that protesters couldn't be there at night, and so the police were ordered to get the protesters out. But still...no excuse for the way it was done.
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timprov
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 12:09 am (UTC)
The bigger question is why force was used at all.

I think it's a basic rule of humanics that if you put people in a position where they are constantly making decisions, eventually one or more of them is going to make one that's phenomenally stupid.
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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 03:58 am (UTC)
There were multiple rounds of tear gas launched at different times, along with rubber bullets fired.
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loser_variable
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 01:54 am (UTC)
Driving this morning I heard on the radio that protestors were throwing Molotov cocktails and M80s at the police. Of course, I have no idea if this is accurate.

I've always felt the advent of SWAT was a mistake. When you train peace officers like soldiers and arm them like soldiers and use "war on x" terminology, some non-zero portion of the force starts to think they are at war with some segment of the civilian population. I'd like to hear "to protect and serve" a little more often.
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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 03:55 am (UTC)
Those reports of Molotov cocktails and M80s are false, lies, patently absurd, ridiculous and obviously meant to be propaganda.
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loser_variable
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 09:39 pm (UTC)
Kos reports at least one M80 thrown at police, as does SF Chron. Not that this makes it true, obv.

On the whole, nationwide, it appears the police are acting with quite a bit of restraint, which is good.
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[icon] My Occupy Oakland observations - Patti
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