OPD, Law Enforcement Used Excessive Force at Oscar Grant Protest

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Walter Riley 510-451-1422,
Carlos Villarreal 415-377-6961

OPD, Law Enforcement Used Excessive Force at Oscar Grant Protest

NLG Decries Police Tactics, Assualts on Peaceful Protesters

OAKLAND, CA - Despite
claims by Oakland Police (OPD) and city officials that law enforcement
used restraint during last Thursday's protests following the Johannes
Mehserle verdict, details emerging paint a very different picture.
 Police used excessive force against a largely peaceful protest,
violently attacking a number of people.  Police arrested many
demonstrators who had done nothing wrong, and then held them in jail
through the night and in some cases through the weekend and beyond.

There will be a press conference at noon on Wednesday,
July 14 at 14th and Broadway in Oakland with Walter Riley, Susan
Harman, and others. 

Among
those arrested were NLGSF member, and prominent Oakland attorney,
Walter Riley. "Thursday's law enforcement conduct must be investigated.
 The police were provocative and seemed determined to instigate
violence, which of course, served their police contract negotiations
with Oakland at a time when they are facing layoffs of 80 officers,"
said Riley.  "In the organized rally where protesters, including me,
were helping to ensure peaceful protest, the police helped to
perpetuate a narrative of violence by allowing a  small number of
people to  vandalize businesses when they could have stopped it."

Also
arrested were Oakland School Board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge,
69-year-old former school principal Susan Harman, journalists and legal
observers.  Many of the arrestees were seriously injured by the police,
including a handful who were taken to the hospital from the scene and
at least one individual who was denied medication, causing a
potentially life threatening situation to an elderly member of the
community.

"Last
Thursday a court in Los Angeles sent a disgraceful message about police
violence, and that message was reinforced by the conduct of Oakland
Police and other law enforcement Thursday evening," said Carlos
Villarreal, NLGSF Executive Director.  "OPD and outside agencies
brought in as reinforcement used overwhelming force on a largely
nonviolent assembly, sweeping up lawyers, legal observers, journalists
and community members, and seriously injuring a number of individuals."

Several
years ago the National Lawyers Guild and ACLU obtained a $2 million
settlement in a lawsuit over OPD brutality toward demonstrators, and at
that time OPD adopted new crowd control policies designed to safeguard
freedom of speech in just this sort of volatile situation.

"If
OPD had followed its own crowd control policies, the injuries would
have been avoided," explained NLGSF attorney Rachel Lederman.  "The
aggressive use of police formations, baton beatings and indiscriminate
arrests were unnecessary and violated people's constitutional right to
protest.  To make things even worse, OPD violated state law by jailing
people for long periods of time who had been arrested for very minor
offenses."

The
National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) condemns
the police abuse by OPD and other law enforcement on the scene and is
investigating possible legal action. The NLGSF is a human rights bar
association founded in 1937 with hundreds of members throughout the Bay
Area.  Find out more at www.nlgsf.org.

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The National Lawyers Guild is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members--lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees--the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.

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