Police Turn Oakland Into War Zone

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In These Times

Police Turn Oakland Into War Zone

by
Allison Kilkenny

POLICE VIOLENCE: Scott Olsen, member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq, who was shot in the head last night by Oakland police, is in critical condition with a skull fracture and swelling of the brain. Meanwhile, outrage against police violence and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, already facing a recall election, is growing.(AFP)

Incredible footage emerged from downtown Oakland last night - not of basic law enforcement efforts to maintain public "health and safety" as the police have been claiming - but of a war zone in which police shot tear gas, bean bags, wooden dowels, flash grenades, and rubber bullets at protesters.

Rather than using the weaponry once in a final effort to subdue the crowd, officers reportedly used them over and over again in what @OccupyOakland describes as a "relentless" assault on the thousands of activists gathered near City Hall.

"The city remains committed to respecting free speech as well as maintaining the city's responsibility to protect public health and safety," Oakland police said in a statement Tuesday. 

The "safety" concerns are the usual complaints levelled at the Occupy movements: sanitation issues, improper food storage, graffiti, litter, and vandalism, although OPD added accusations of fighting, assaults, and "threatening/intimidating behavior." Yes, you read that correctly. OPD is accusing the protesters of using "threatening/intimidating behavior."

The police claim they were ever-so-distressed that they couldn't get medical responders through to attend to the wounded protesters, and they ultimately expressed this concern by shooting the remaining activists with tear gas and rubber bullets. Reportedly, activists retaliated by "throwing paint" on police officers.

 

Oakland Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said that a total of 102 arrests have been made so far, but as of last night that number was still increasing. Eighty-five of those arrests were made early Tuesday when officers raided the Occupy Oakland encampment at Oscar Grant plaza along with an annex in Snow Park near Lake Merritt.

During the assault, police dressed in full riot gear as if preparing to battle a zombie horde or terrorist cell (photo by @garonsen).

Footage of the flash grenades and tear gas being used against protesters:

A steadier version of more or less the same thing:

Terrifying footage that allegedly shows a veteran who suffered a head wound from a rubber bullet. The cameraman can be heard screaming, "medic!" as he desperately tries to get the man to say his name.

Photo of a protester allegedly shot by a rubber bullet (@OccupyOakland)

Protesters speaking with some OPD after the very first raid in which eighty-five individuals were arrested. Here, a police officer expresses he was just following orders.

And I could go on. This kind of stuff keeps rolling in every five minutes on Youtube. As always, it's important to remember that regardless of police accusations, the charges against protesters listed above (sanitation issues, graffiti, etc.) are relatively minor offenses given the nature of this police retaliation in which OPD turned downtown Oakland into a war zone.

These are the consequences of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. It's no wonder the culture of activism remained dormant in America for so many decades. 

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