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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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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:33 pm (UTC)
Some from column A and some from column B, perhaps?

I suspect there are quite a few "bad apples" on the Oakland police force. It's a tough city to be a cop in, and they do have a bit of a reputation for brutality.
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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-26 10:40 pm (UTC)
Fair enough. It is a tough job and even tougher still to do the job ethically.

-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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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 03:56 am (UTC)
The videos are not of the camp being rousted. They are of the peaceful protest 15-20 hours later.
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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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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 11:16 am (UTC)
Would they have dispersed if the cops walked up and asked nicely?

-R
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usernamenumber
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 02:07 pm (UTC)
Probably not, but surely there's a big middle ground between giving up after asking nicely and... this. Compare the arrests in Oakland to the arrests in Boston, for example. For all Occupy Boston's claims of "brutality", from the videos I've seen I think that at least most of the Boston arrests, where those who would go with the cops were led away, and those who wouldn't were pulled away with as much force as was required to get them to move, provide a good example of how this could have been handled without tear gas and rubber bullets.

Edited at 2011-10-27 02:08 pm (UTC)
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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 05:23 pm (UTC)
Why should they have dispersed? That was the whole point. To peacefully protest. As in

Congress shall make no law ... restricting ... the right of the people peacefully to assemble ...
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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 07:10 pm (UTC)
I don't want those kids on my lawn.

Seriously. Occupy Columbia has been going on for a couple of weeks at the SC State House. My sister is getting married Saturday and we are supposed to be doing photos on the state house grounds. I don't need to see some unshowered unshaven beanie wearing hipster with his bicycle and protest signs in the background of our pictures.

Aren't we entitled to use that land just as much as they are?

-R
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prock
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 07:20 pm (UTC)

Sure you are. But you don't get to use it to the exclusion of others.

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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 07:23 pm (UTC)
But their actions are potentially infringing on my rights. The state house should be for everyone. They should go protest the Governor's Mansion. That's more like a timeshare and besides, Queen Haley could use some bohemians at the gate. Or was that barbarians? Whatever.

-R
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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 07:52 pm (UTC)
Certainly.

But likewise so are they. So who are you to tell people whether to shave, what to wear on their heads, what mode of transport to use or whether he/she can exercise his 1st amendment right to free speech by holding up a protest sign?

In any case you are completely misunderstanding the situation. The protesters in the situation being described were being dispersed from marching peacefully on the street, not from the encampment, which had already been cleared some 15 hours prior.
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adb_jaeger
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 08:36 pm (UTC)
Wow. Just, wow.
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ronsrants
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 08:43 pm (UTC)
Pffft. Give me some money and I'll go down and join the protest. Oh wait...

-R
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tigerknight
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 07:45 pm (UTC)
A lot of the issues being cited by various cities are health problems. When you get masses of people together and they aren't paying for services like trash, waste, and etc how long do you let it go before it becomes too much? The city has a duty to make sure that there aren't any hazards to public health, and thousands of people camping out in a park for any length of time without proper support services is going quickly create issues of this kind.

There are a few solutions to this:
1 - have people chip in a couple dollars to actually pay for the cleanup and porta-potty services. Unfortunately not likely because a lot of protesters are anti-government to begin with and won't want to.

2 - migrate around various places (and announce their comings/goings of gathering points) to the city so that they can get teams in to clean up after them without potential conflict between public servants and protesters. This wouldn't likely happen either, unfortunately.

3 - manage the waste and services themselves with supervision and/or spot-inspections by health inspectors to make sure that the place actually IS staying clean and that the city doesn't need to get involved any further than a handful of inspectors/advisors to protester cleanup efforts.

Outside of a few places (like new york) where there have been laws passed with the goal of restricting activity like this (and I agree completely that it's a Very Bad Thing[tm]), every report I've heard about them trying to break up camps or move people along is because of health safety or occasional belligerent protesters.

People have a right to peacefully protest. They do not have a right to literally shit on my (or the city's) lawn. People should have the common sense to go someplace where they can use proper facilities, whether it's a run home from the protest, to some public building like a courthouse, or going to grab a $.99 burger and make a pit-stop in the bathroom. By making such messes they are costing other 99%'ers because what do they think pays for cleanup crews that the city has to send in? *drum roll please* tax money.
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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 07:56 pm (UTC)
1. There were plenty of portapotties at the site.

3. The place was being managed pretty damned well when I was there on Friday. It was clean; no garbage or human waste anywhere on site or in sight except for garbage containers.

Basically, cities officials made this shit up (pun intended) to provide an excuse for them to raid the encampment.

No one was shitting on anyone else's lawn, unless perhaps it were mentally unstable people who would have been doing it anyway while the City of Oakland officials just looked away.
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tigerknight
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 08:10 pm (UTC)
I am speaking as a general statement about large collections of people and not about just one site, and city response varies also with som bing very helpful and others antagonistic - the point of health safety remains and I stand by what I said. There are a large number of camps and you have been to one, I highly doubt that every protester camp is as we'll organized, and so not every objection the cities have to masses of proesters is going to be made up.

I apologize for shifting gears an moving away from speaking of a specific location without being clear about it.
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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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jpmassar
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 09:47 pm (UTC)
link to Kos diary?
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loser_variable
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-27 11:38 pm (UTC)
It was in the top handful of Google results for M80 and Oakland this morning. Apparently sanitized.
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[icon] My Occupy Oakland observations - Patti
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