Fuck you, Oakland

I don’t usually shoot from the hip like this, but what happened in Oakland last night is disgusting:

Police in riot gear have used non-lethal weapons on a crowd of more than 1,000 people attempting to march on to Oakland’s city hall to condemn arrests made at an “Occupy Wall Street” camp. Police dispersed the crowd with what appeared to be stun grenades and set off tear gas to drive the demonstrators away from a plaza in Oakland’s business district that had been at the centre of Tuesday’s conflict. Ali Winston, a journalist at the scene, described to Al Jazeera the police’s tactics. “There have been two incidents of tear gas, flash-bang grenades and less-than-lethal projectiles beanbags being fired at the crowd,” he said. “In one instance, they used CS gas – which is a stronger version of tear gas that affects your respiratory system as well as your eyes, as well as burning your skin. So that’s happened twice since then.”

Thus adding to the list of cities that I will never visit unless circumstances force me to. Mayor Jean Quan – you’re scum and the world would be a better place if you had never been born. Police have sworn a duty to protect and serve the people, and attacking a peaceful protest, no matter how otherwise unruly, does neither of those things. Arresting people for “assembling without a permit” directly contravenes the First Amendment, and I hope that a lot of the officers involved serve prison terms. I hear they’re not too nice to pigs in the joint – maybe they’ll like you better if you tell them the story of the totally badass time you opened fire on a group of unarmed civilians.

Even if it wasn’t evil, responding to peaceful protest with violence is stupid. All it does is galvanize people against the police and grant the movement legitimacy. I’m amazed that we keep allowing stupid people who have learned nothing from history make our political decisions. So Jean Quan:

Fuck you.

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  1. Knasher says

    This reminds me of my very favorite quotes from Battlestar Galactica “The police protect the People. The military defends the State. When the military becomes the police, the People become the Enemy of the State.”. The same reasoning applies when the police are tasked with defending the state.

  2. julian says

    They used CS gas? On protesters?

    Jesus Christ, I understand the pressure these guys are under. It can be very intimidating staring down a large angry crowd but this kind of abuse in inexcusable. There is no reason to resort to such dangerous tactics when your job is to protect the peace.

    Here’s an easy way to tell if the weapons need to come out, are they breaking windows? Are they waving their own weapons? Are they actually attacking you? If the answer is no, settle the fuck down and act like a professional.

  3. says

    This reminds me of the G20 protests in Toronto. The police went way over the line, making up laws and arresting civilians completely unrelated to any protest activity. Why is it that disproportionate police responses are becoming so much more commonplace?

  4. Crommunist says

    The question is, like crime, are they actually becoming more common or are they just getting more attention in the media?

  5. Beauzeaux says

    Definitely getting more media attention. What’s changed in the last decade or so is the ubiquity of cell phones with cameras.

    Millions of people now have video capability and they USE it. Hundreds of videos of police over-reaction/brutality are posted on Youtube and/or given to news outlets daily. The police have always behaved in the same manner but now there’s evidence.

    Before cell phone cameras, there was either no eyewitnesses or the eyewitnesses were not believed.(Without the video evidence, there wouldn’t have been anything other than a cursory investigation into the death of Robert Dziekański at the Vancouver airport.)

    PS: Oakland is a great place. Cops no better or worse than other places in the US of A. Police in NYC are pretty terrible but I would still be happy to go there again.

  6. Tisha Irwin says

    I would agree with the “more attention” theory. Just look back to the 60’s in the US. Police (and civilians) routinely used lethal force against civil rights protesters.

  7. timberwoof says

    As I wrote elsewhere, the irony that in order to protect people’s health and safety they have to send the cops in to beat people up is breaking my brain.

  8. embraceyourinnercrone says

    The word “non-lethal” may become a misnomer in this case:

    Iraq vet at Occupy Oakland shot in the head with police projectile:


    “Olsen, 24, was in 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, before leaving the military last year. He had been opposed to the Iraq war even before his first tour to the country, Shannon said. Shannon and Olsen met in November or December 2005, and share an apartment in Daly City, south of San Francisco.”

    According to his roommate Keith Shannon, he has a fractured skull and swelling of the brain…. I hope he recovers

  9. says

    Fair enough. I seem to recall that the police overreaction in Seattle in 1999 was due to the protesters actually causing property damage. Lately, it seems that there is an overreaction before anyone does anything. I could be completely wrong though.

  10. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    Yes, I was going to mention what embraceyourinnercrone did: these are “non-lethal” weapons only in that they often do not kill people. The Israeli’s often tout “non-lethal rubber bullets,” but fired at the right range and hitting the right spot can cause severe injury or death. I was exposed to CS gas as part of my military training, and while it may not kill you, in a crowded, hectic urban environment it my easily cause you or others to do something which could kill you. (Remember the Who concert in Cincinnati?)

    It’s so fucking simple: non-violent protest does not warrant indiscriminate violence on the part of police.

  11. lordshipmayhem says

    I think they’ve become more restrained, counter-intuitively. Back in the bad old days, they could crack some heads and bloody some noses. Today they’re all too aware what kind of optics that leaves. Better to use tear gas and other non-lethal measures than try to render someone’s brains an exterior organ.

    With the cops facing the 99% protesters, they’re worried about more of the various recent violent protests happening. They also have the Vancouver Hockey Riot in their sights – the cops in Vancouver thought they had everything under control and then discovered they’d actually lost all control. At the G-20, the first day the cops were so restrained that we ended up with the crowds bold enough to attack innocent people and destroy shops and a couple of cop cars. The leaders of the cops today don’t want a repeat of Toronto G-20 or the Seattle riots or the Vancouver Hockey Riot (or either of the two major Montreal Hockey Riots – hey, we Canucks really do treat that game as our national religion, don’t we?), so they’re using an abundance of caution – and as a result, an abundance of non-lethal strong-arm tactics.

    Should we really be surprised?

  12. Crommunist says

    They also have the Vancouver Hockey Riot in their sights

    Except that the cops in Vancouver and Toronto aren’t doing anything of this kind at all. Attacking a crowd of people who aren’t being violent is in no way “using an abundance of caution”.

  13. Katalina says

    I live in Emeryville, and my boyfriend played a show at 14th & Webster (in the center of the riot) last night. He was there and we’ve talked about it at length. I wasn’t there only because I was home with the 4-yr-old. The vet you’re referring to was taking the canisters that had been thrown into the crowd and throwing them back over the barricade at police. Repeatedly. Yes, they shot him with a rubber bullet.

    Police helicopters were circling above, telling people that they needed to disperse and that they were in violation of civil codes because they were standing in the middle of the street (Broadway). They had already closed down Webster and were trying to keep Broadway open to traffic. People were warned repeatedly and told that police would use tear gas to disperse them – and a bunch of them stayed there and chose to get gassed.

    I’m definitely not a fan of the police around here, but they were totally fair with people. As my bf said, if you stand somewhere for four hours with a hose spraying and saying that if you come into the path of the hose, you’ll get wet, it should be no surprise when you actually do get wet when you step into the stream of water.

  14. Katalina says

    P.S. It was the rats and the public health threat that forced them to break it up in the first place. And the drum circles that were disrupting schools and businesses. I can’t tell you the havoc that the Occupy Oakland event has caused me personally in terms of transportation and access to businesses, etc… and I’m one of those suckers that has student loan debt and a job and pays taxes. I appreciate people’s right to protest, but I don’t appreciate when one group’s rights infringe on everyone else’s.

    Not that this justifies police violence, but the whole point of police is to make society a safer place for *everyone.* Protesters were taking street signs down and slapping them on the ground to make crashing noises that approximated the sound of flash-bangs, they were using businesses like the one my boyfriend was working at last night as pockets to hide out in only to pop back out and try to harass police. Again, they have a right to peacefully protest, but it isn’t fair to allow them to infringe on all the rest of our rights.

  15. Katalina says

    P.P.S. Glad to find you here, Crommunist! My laptop died recently so I didn’t know you had migrated. 🙂

  16. Allienne Goddard says

    There is no indication in your video that Scott Olsen was throwing back tear gas canisters. Given that the OWS protesters have annoyed you and your boyfriend personally, and considering the chaos, crowds, and smoke, I don’t believe your boyfriend just happened to see Olsen throwing the canisters in the ten seconds in which the action occurred, either.

  17. Katalina says

    But he did see, personally, 4-5 people at a time pulling street signs out of the ground to slam them on the ground… again, not that it justifies violence, but it’s not like they’re sitting in a circle singing cumbayah.

  18. Katalina says

    Yes, it’s easy to be reductionist, isn’t it? I relayed information I heard without fully watching it first – I do apologize. That’s what was reported by a reliable news outlet. And it’s also clear that people aren’t just peacefully protesting, they are participating in standoffs with police.

  19. Allienne Goddard says

    No, you explicitly said:

    I live in Emeryville, and my boyfriend played a show at 14th & Webster (in the center of the riot) last night. He was there and we’ve talked about it at length. I wasn’t there only because I was home with the 4-yr-old. The vet you’re referring to was taking the canisters that had been thrown into the crowd and throwing them back over the barricade at police. Repeatedly. Yes, they shot him with a rubber bullet.

    Then you admit that your boyfriend didn’t see this. You post a video that does not show what you claim it shows. You lied and in the process defamed a marine who served two combat tours and is now in critical condition in the hospital. By the way, I don’t think you know what the term “reductionist” means. Might want to look that up.

  20. Katalina says

    “the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.”

    Thank you for suggesting it. Last time I checked, the main point of lying was to knowingly not tell the truth. I admitted that I didn’t watch the whole thing before posting. And I apologized. Again, I’m sorry for not fact checking beforehand. As a military veteran myself, it’s not like I’m trying to hose fellow veterans. Just saying that the protesters are not all peaceful, and that to make a blanket statement that the police are being violent in a situation where they are unprovoked is disingenuous and dishonest.

    Oops, sorry, two synonyms in a row!

  21. Allienne Goddard says

    You admit your boyfriend didn’t see what you had first said he had seen. Are you asserting that you forgot at first that your boyfriend hadn’t seen the event? It was just a simple mistake, like your suggestion that your video showed Scott Olsen throwing tear gas canisters? Okay, maybe I was hasty after all. You either lied, are delusional, or are just completely unreliable as a source of information because of intellectual carelessness. Happy?

    Your assertion that not all protesters are peaceful is not at all relevant to the question of your veracity. Frankly, I question your intellectual honesty, and have no desire to discuss anything with you. I simply wanted to point out to other readers that your information was false, and that you are unreliable.

  22. bob says

    Or maybe, as a more likely explanation for you feelings, you are just a disgusting victim-blaming puddle of shit.

    There is no law even against trowing tear gas back at cops, and it is neither unjust or immoral in this case, so it changes nothing.

  23. bob says

    Pff, sure buddy, tell us another one. These are the exact same type of excuses that have been used for evicting the other occupations, and I have seen abundant video and photo evidence that it is total bullshit. Plus, judging from your other comments you are in the habit of lying like a cheap rug.

  24. julian says

    I appreciate people’s right to protest, but I don’t appreciate when one group’s rights infringe on everyone else’s.


    Except, of course, when it makes one late for work.

  25. Crommunist says

    We’re getting way over the line here, Bob. I don’t appreciate the personal attacks, as they are completely irrelevant to the conversation. Additionally, Katalina is an old friend of this blog who doesn’t deserve the ridiculous level of shit you’re heaping on her. She’s apologized, and while I disagree with her as well, it’s time to move on.

  26. Katalina says

    This is Katalina’s boyfriend. I am a musician, not a writer. After reading the conversation that you folks are having, I thought it was important to clarify some things.

    My name is Clifford Brown III. I am not anonymous. I am a very hard working citizen. I volunteer at the elementary school every week and am the director of a 501c3 educational non profit. You would be hard pressed to look me up and find that I don’t serve the Oakland/Bay Area Community.

    My band plays at a club downtown Oakland every other Tuesday night. Disco Volante (http://www.discovolanteoakland.com if you want to check the calendar to verify my band is called the brewing co.) sits on the corner of 14th and Webster with the door on 14th and windows on the Broadway and 14th side. No windows on the other two sides. I started my show at 8pm just as the masses were being told it was time to go. There was allot of press and allot of protesters. Police held their line and tension grew with every moment. Some time during our 2nd set the first volley of tear gas went off. We had to lock the doors to keep the gas out, but we did allow protesters in for water or to escape the gas. When protesters entered they were confronted with a live band and the absence of any kind of civil unrest. Disco was an Oasis to these people.

    After the gas cleared we took a break and went outside. This was when the copter footage I forwarded to Katalina starts. During the filming around minute 1:14 or so several protesters can be seen on film throwing gas canisters back at the cops. At this point during any other riot control action that i have seen the cops go in and remove people. They did not do this. They held their line. I did not tell Katarina specifically that the marine threw the canisters back but i did tell her generally that “they threw the canisters back at cops and then the cops shot them.” On the ground there was NO way to tell specifically who threw the canister from my perspective and the cops perspective. Once the canisters, rocks, firecrackers, and bottles were thrown at the cops the police sharp shooters began to escalate their response by disabling anyone who was believed to be a threat and was still in the cordoned off area. The video clearly shows the marine to be near the front of the police line well after the tear gassing started. If I were a cop i would fear anyone in his position. On the other hand the protesters were obviously not fearful enough of the cops. Mob mentality is very dangerous to everyone because it usually ends in this fashion.

    After the initial tear gassing protesters regrouped 6 TIMES and came back to the same intersection to confront police and attempt to re-occupy the park. Along the way 3 street signs were pulled from the ground and 1 parking meter. I have video of this. EVERY TIME they were met with the exact same level of violence and force. As a bystander it was almost comical that people would come into the restaurant have a drink listen to our music then put a mask back on and go riot and breath in toxic fumes. Its hard to feel sorry for someone like that.

    I went out last night after work from 10pm to 3am and shot video of what it is actually like to be in downtown Oakland. I also went over the bridge into SF but found little of interest.

    Oscar grant plaza stinks… it stinks from blocks away. Oakland doesn’t need to stink. Oakland doesn’t need to hold a general strike. Oakland needs to be redefined. As a place people live and work. Oakland is known for murder, theft, poverty, poor schools and so much more. We the people in this case have forced our government to spend a ton of money. If we really wanted to effect change we would simply start voting EVERY time.

    So here’s the deal. You can believe me or not. You can visit my Facebook if you want to know more. If you think you know everything and don’t care to hear an eye witness account, there is really no need for you to. HOWEVER if you simply disagree with what i am saying happened why don’t you let others take a look for themselves. I won’t stop you from thinking I’m wrong. Ill be posting a video in the next few days. I’ll make sure you guys get a link.

    Sorry for the confusion,

    Clifford Brown III
    Brown Audio Solutions and Services

  27. julian says

    The video clearly shows the marine to be near the front of the police line well after the tear gassing started

    The Marine. We’re a little touchy about that, thank you.

    The video clearly shows the marine to be near the front of the police line well after the tear gassing started. If I were a cop i would fear anyone in his position

    Why? Was he waving a pistol? Did he present a threat to someone in full riot gear?

    Its hard to feel sorry for someone like that.

    Fuck you. Those people had ten times the courage of some sneering asshole like you.

    If you think you know everything and don’t care to hear an eye witness account, there is really no need for you to.

    You realize nothing you’ve said in anyway minimizes what the police did or makes the protesters responsible for what happened? And it’s you being an asshole that thinks gassing people is funny that’s probably going to piss people off.

  28. Clifford Brown says

    The Marine. We’re a little touchy about that, thank you.

    I suppose your welcome. It’s ok to be sensitive, just don’t let it cloud your judgement.

    Why? Was he waving a pistol? Did he present a threat to someone in full riot gear?

    I don’t know nor do i believe he had a gun. However glass hurts. So yes I would say from the perspective of the people in front of him he was an immediate threat (from the police perspective). I am not a cop. I can only say how i think i would feel if I were. I’m not sure how much full riot gear protects the wearer but it looks like catchers gear and getting hit with a fast ball still hurts behind the plate.

    Those people had ten times the courage of some sneering asshole like you.

    Well. For the sake of your argument we can agree I’m an asshole. You’ll have to wait for the video to see i sneered at no one and always try to conduct myself in an above board fashion. There is allot of misinformation and 3rd and 4th hand accounts being spread. My only goal in this after some of you folks spit bile in my girlfriends face is to let you know what i saw and to clarify the misunderstanding about the video i showed her. I don’t claim to be courageous. It was a major personal decision for me to go back downtown last night after living thew Tuesday nights events. I decided to go. I decided staying home and watching it on TV or writing about it on the internet or just pretending its not happening wouldn’t solve anything. So here I stand. Asshole and all.

    You realize nothing you’ve said in anyway minimizes what the police did or makes the protesters responsible for what happened? And it’s you being an asshole that thinks gassing people is funny that’s probably going to piss people off.

    I’ve stated my motives and my intentions. What possible motive could i have for covering up police misconduct. I have no ties to the police. Just about everything about me is public information. I don’t think gassing people is funny. What i saw could have been a satire if it were set on a stage. That was my point. Because it wasn’t set on a stage it was less than funny (reads almost). It was tragic. Had the police not shown restraint last night would have been a repeat.

    Julian a protest becomes civil disobedience when a line is drawn and then crossed. I don’t have a problem at all with civil disobedience as a tactic. However part of that tactic is to incite a response from the opposition. If there is no response the action is deemed uncucessful and there is no change. Without sacrifice protest is meaningless and the desired change is not adopted. Olsen and every other protester needs to be aware of what they are getting into before they go out and hit the street. Taking action against the state should be a big decision. This is why. Most of the people I have talked to don’t see it as a life altering decision. It was for Scott.

  29. Allienne Goddard says

    Well, for my part, the “bile” I was spitting at your girlfriend was that she lied twice about a Marine (sorry I failed to capitalize it correctly before, Julian) that was bleeding on the ground as a result of civil disobedience. It appears that you both are not fans of the local OWS movement, and she appears to have lied to undermine the outrage many feel at this man being seriously injured by the Oakland cops by asserting that he was throwing back tear gas canisters. Was it pure coincidence that the two sources she offered in support of her assertion were false and the result of error? Perhaps. In which case she isn’t a liar, she is just completely unreliable and should be ignored.

    I understand that she is a “friend of the blog”, but she ought to be ashamed to make assertions that she either knows to be false or has no evidence to support when they concern a violent event that left a man in the hospital.

  30. Allienne Goddard says

    That is not correct. She apologized for the assertion that the video showed Olsen throwing tear gas canisters. She did not apologize for her her relation of her boyfriend’s first-hand account which she then admitted (to her credit) that she had characterized falsely. As for what I’m looking for: absolutely nothing. Whatever process she would need to go through to become a competent reasoner is beyond me. I am satisfied that I have done my best to show readers that Katalina is not a trust-worthy interlocutor. I responded to Clifford because I wanted to clarify that my “bile” had nothing to do with his story or actions.

    Crommunist, I like you. I like your blog. I have enjoyed reading what you write. However, if there is some special category of commenters who may not be harshly criticized, may I suggest that you assign them “FOB” awards so that it is clear that they require special treatment? I’m sure Katalina is a fine person with many positive qualities, and no doubt you have had many pleasant interactions with her. That does not excuse what she did, and as a commenter I am not under any compulsion to extend her any extra courtesies because you have had good experiences interacting with her.

    Obviously, this is your house, and you can set whatever rules you prefer. If I have broken any rules, it was out of ignorance, since I have not seen any posts detailing what is impermissible. I understand that my comments may upset you because I am responding to Katalina without having the history you have had with her, but I can only react to what I have personally experienced. Her actions have clearly shown that she is not intellectually honest, however charming she is. Again, she surely has many positive qualities, but this fault is important and should be noted. For my part, I’m done now.

  31. Crommunist says

    My point in recognizing Katalina’s longevity was merely to blunt the sweeping criticisms of her as a person based on a single mistake she made (an egregious one, to be sure). She was wrong, and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out. I just thought the level of condemnation outstripped the offense, and because she is a person with whom I’ve had many positive interactions I was hoping there could be a way in which criticisms could be leveled without reaching the level of sweeping judgment.

    In this particular incident she misrepresented the truth – I do not believe it was with malicious intent, but I have no way of establishing that. That does not mean that she is always untrustworthy. Were that the case, then I doubt any of us would achieve the standard of ‘truthworthy’ – I’ve certainly been mistaken or brought forward positions that didn’t match up with the evidence before.

    There are no rules here. There certainly will never be rules about who can say what to whom – I was just hoping to keep the peace.

  32. says

    “14th & Webster”

    i can for sure say I don’t support a general strike. I can’t afford it. And if people don’t come to hear me play. I will suffer. How does that hurt the 1% more than it hurts me or Oakland. I will freely admit I’m conflicted. I will also freely admit this “movement” has been both a huge boon to Oakland, and a huge pain in the but. It continues to inhibit my freedom of movement. I can say that irritates me. I also don’t believe that this level nuisance of is appropriate for a place like Oakland with the nature of the problems the city is facing already.

    But what the hell do i know, I’m just a starving musician.

  33. Katalina says

    BTW, on further review, the original video I posted does indeed show either the individual who was shot by police – or maybe the guy next to him – throwing tear gas canisters back over the police line. Have a look at minute 1:13. Again, no fan of the police, but there was only one person shot down that night, and it’s all on the video. I don’t think shooting him was the right thing to do. But there were obviously a few people who weren’t deterred by being tear gassed, which generally means that police would now like you to leave the area. While I realize this probably won’t change anyone’s mind about whether I’m a depraved liar, sadly, that’s my only reason to mention it. Oh, and also to promote truth, but I do admit in this case that my desire to promote truth is secondary to my desire to say “see, I wasn’t lying!” Lame, I know.

    I don’t need to be handled with kid gloves, but at a certain point, name-calling loses its relevance as a productive part of discussion. But as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m probably far too sensitive to be involved in these discussions and not let it get to me! Now please, back to defaming my character!

  34. Aquaria says

    Eyewitness accounts are notoriously crap–as you so amply demonstrate.

    Run along, now. I’m sure the cops appreciate how you’re willing to sell out your fellow citizens for the opportunity to kiss their repressive asses.

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