Because the natural reaction of getting pelted with paint is to shoot someone in the face
I have previously blogged about the dangers inherent in less than lethal munitions (read rubber bullets). Shooting someone is the head with one is as good as using real bullets when it comes to killing capability. It is one of the reasons that before issuing those types of weapons to Soldiers, we have to re-qualify with the ammo in a wide variety of simulated combat conditions. If I or one of my Soldiers were to shoot a kid in the head under similar circumstances, I would likely go to jail (Do not pass GO, Do not collect $200).
Apparently the bar is set lower in Oakland. Even after the mayor, in response to the backlash on the violent crackdown by cops, is now preaching sympathy for the 99% there has yet to be any repressions on the unit, commander, or individual responsible for putting 24 year old Iraqi War Vet, Scott Olsen in the hospital for a skull fracture allegedly from a rubber bullet. This is unacceptable.
This is what happens when decision makers and leaders are not present during a crisis. Mayor Jean Quan had left the city of Oakland and didn’t know about the raid, having entrusted that responsibly to lower echelons of leadership.
Now some have been blaming the crowd for not reacting timidly to the cops’ raid. I say bullshit. Large crowds without definitive leadership are NOT rational actors in a force on force situation (compared to the peaceful act of protesting). We revert to instincts and emotion, which is why the army trains its leaders to be able to distance their minds from the fight in order to understand the entire situation and act accordingly. Very few crowds ever react well to the implantation of force until the effects of that force (almost always violent) breaks the crowd. This is the result. The cops, unless they were completely untrained in riot control, knew this would happen.
Get well soon Scott.
*note: Some sources say that Scott was struck by a tear gas container (which should be shot in a high arc to let the projectile slow a bit), OWS protestors have posted pictures of rubber bullets reported to have been used. The police say that they used “Less than lethal force, including tear gas,” which implies that other options being used. Which could range from mace to bumble bee anti-riot grenades.