OAKLAND, Calif. — A U.S. federal judge has issued an ultimatum to the city of Oakland, threatening sanctions if officials do not adequately address the flood of complaints relating to heavy-handed police tactics used against “Occupy” protesters.
District Judge Thelton Henderson has demanded that city officials determine how to settle police brutality complaints in connection with a series of harsh crackdowns on “Occupy” protesters since last fall. Henderson decried the “overwhelming military-type response” of Oakland officers.
This reporter was present last Oct. 26 when OPD officers, Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies and other area police forces responded to provocative actions by fringe anarchist elements marching with mostly peaceful “Occupy” demonstrators with non-lethal yet dangerous and painful weapons including tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, concussion grenades and wooden dowels.
Among the protesters injured by officers was U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who suffered a fractured skull after being shot in the head with a non-lethal projectile. Street medics and other demonstrators who rushed in to help Olsen were then fired upon with chemical agents.
On Nov. 4, Kayvan Sabehgi, a former Army Ranger and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen after officers brutally beat him. Sabehgi was denied medical care for at least 12 hours.
“My stomach was really hurting, and it got worse to the point where I couldn’t stand up,” he told The Guardian. “I was on my hands and knees and crawled over to the cell door to call for help.”
“I was vomiting and had diarrhea. I just lay there in pain for hours.”
On Jan. 7, police in riot gear were caught on video knocking down and brutally beating a female protester identified only as Leela who was ironically participating in an anti-police brutality demonstration.
Then, on Jan. 30, some 400 protesters and at least half a dozen journalists were arrested downtown, with widespread police brutality reported.
Occupy Oakland claims that officers failed to follow their own “use of force” guidelines and failed to give protesters adequate opportunity to disperse before resorting to violence.
In response to fierce criticism from human rights groups, activists and the community at large, Oakland Police have shifted tactics in dealing with protesters. This new strategy, which focuses on targeting individual troublemakers rather than making mass arrests, was on display at Tuesday’s May Day protests.
“This was our attempt to handle things on a smaller scale, in hopes of facilitating the majority’s freedom to assemble,” OPD Sgt. Christopher Bolton told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Brett Wilkins is the editor and publisher of MoralLowGround.com.