Saturday, May 5, 2012

Disastrous New Model Policing of Occupy by OPD

I've hesitated to post anything about this as I didn't see the videos until the day before yesterday, and it was hard to imagine reports of "arrests" in Oakland in connection with the May Day marches and rallies and visualize this as what happened:

But this is only part of it. From this video, it looks like just random mayhem by the OPD, snatching and grabbing likely targets at will, with neither cause nor reason, and firing a few rounds of flash-bangs and tear gas pretty much at random as well. This is what the New Model OPD crowd control response, ostentatiously announced by Interim Chief Howard Jordan in the days before the May Day events, looks like. What a mess.
But there is more:

These are the same events, but in greater detail. The randomness and the terror tactics employed by the Oakland police in so-called "crowd control" operations like this are obviously not controlling disturbances -- there were none before the police commenced their attack -- they are causing disturbances. And there are provocateurs -- assumed to be police agents -- in the crowd. Many of them according to witnesses.

At 4:06 you can see one casually pick up a dropped police club and hand it to an officer.

The random firing into the crowd -- a crowd which includes police officers -- looks like a panic move. Given the chaos precipitated by the police, panic among them would be almost expected.

It's Oakland, of course, so the crowd is chanting: "We are not afraid."

Some actually are afraid, though. And inspiring fear and dread in the crowd is part of the botched Plan we see being implemented.

Yet another -- and still longer -- view of the same events. Notice, there is no disturbance in the street until the police create one. These events are taking place as part of the march is about to arrive at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of the Oakland City Hall (where the encampment was, and close to where Scott Olsen and others were injured by police firing into the crowd on October 25).

We don't know what precipitates the cops running forward, but from my perspective, they look like they are trying to get ahead of the crowd, perhaps to form a skirmish line of some sort to prevent something. This is how they operate.

But starting at 0:39 we see a bicyclist cross in front of them. She is jostled and then assaulted by police, pulled from her bike and thrown to the ground, screaming in shock and pain.

(Of course it's possible the bicyclist was deliberately trying to interfere with the police charge. Oh, these things sometimes happen. But I don't know. From appearances, she was simply riding her bike from one side of the street to the other and quite possibly didn't even see the police charge in progress until she was assaulted.)

If the police were intending to form a skirmish line at the Plaza for some reason, they wind up forming a messed up "force protection line" instead as they arrest and drag off the bicyclist. The crowd is highly agitated by these events but they do not respond to police violence with violence of their own (well, apart from their ever-present verbal contempt of the officers, which is not only routine, it is often quite rude. Oh my.)

A tall unhelmeted officer is seen at 2:22 and frequently throughout the rest of the video; he seems to be directing the action. He looks familiar from previous videos of encounters with the Oakland police, I'm thinking especially of one really stupid event when the police confiscated the sound equipment being used by demonstrators in front of the City Hall. IIRC, he was actually the officer who dealt with those who were protesting this police action with a certain unusual level of diplomacy and aplomb. But maybe it wasn't him.

At any rate, it's obvious from this video that the OPD is completely at sea; not only do they have no training or leadership in conducting this sort of operation (which they shouldn't be doing anyway), they are scaring themselves with their own incompetence. It's hard to maintain an aggressive posture when you don't know what you're doing.

They are holding on to each other for dear life, even though the crowd is not physically threatening or assaulting them at all (compare and contrast with Greek anti-police actions.) Really. Americans, no matter how pissed they are, wouldn't even think of doing something like that to American police.

So-called "nonviolence" advocates, of course, used to get their panties all in a wad over the merest suggestion of rudeness toward the police, accusing "OO" of engaging in "violence" because protesters confront the police assertively and loudly (oh yes, and some of them wear bandanas, also a mark of "violence.") I say "used to get" their panties bunched up because they have mostly shut the fuck up. Well, "mostly." There have been a few diaries over at dKos lately excoriating the "black block" for breaking windows, but even those have been taken with a grain of salt. We still don't know who actually committed the vandalism in San Francisco on April 30th for example, and there is a case to be made that it was the work of either the police themselves or hired thugs in order to further diminish participation in Occupy and other protest events.

At about 3:10 in the video you can make out the crowd chanting "Pigs go home!" as the police retreat. This has become a routine chant in Oakland because statistics show that about 90% of the OPD don't live in Oakland and couldn't care less about what happens to the city or its people. They function as a mercenary squad ("Mossos d'Esquadra") on behalf of the city authorities and their owners. They have no commitment to the People because they have no connection with them; thus they have a tradition, an institutional culture if you will, of acting with murderous impunity. Of all the many anti-police chants used in Oakland, "Pigs go home!" seems to hit them the hardest. Truth hurts.

Some members of the crowd use metal shielding against police aggression (actually, in the video, it is being used rather cleverly to contain the police). At about 3:48 you can hear the crowd chanting "We are not afraid!" as the police continue to retreat.

At 6:23 the police, under the apparent command of the tall unhelmeted officer, start to become aggressive. Two police vehicles have just left the scene -- we assume one of them contains the arrested bicyclist, but that's not entirely clear. Their aggression is incomprehensible, but many of the police actions in Oakland have made no sense for years, and thus the city has paid out many millions of dollars in compensation to victims of police incompetence and brutality, and the OPD is under Federal Court reform orders (which are being ignored or violated daily) and threat of Federal receivership for failure to comply. This has been going on for years. And years. And years.

What we're seeing in these videos are OPD's futile attempts to meet some of the requirements mandated by some of the repeated demands of the court orders.

At 7:08 you will notice a Black Clad One pass between two officers on the street. He his patted on the back by one of the officers, and it is only natural to ask whether he is one of the many (many) police plants and provocateurs in the crowd. I have no idea whether he is or not, but given the swift and brutal action of the police toward other Black Clad Ones -- and their apparent indifference to this one -- it makes you wonder.

Shortly after 7:14 we hear the sound of some kind of munitions being fired, startling everyone, including the police. The camera pans and we see smoke or tear gas rising from the street. Almost immediately, the police among whom the round went off, throw someone to the ground (not Black Clad) and begin the process of arresting him. One of the officers who throws him to the ground is carrying what looks like a bean-bag weapon, but it's not clear exactly what sort of munitions he's armed with. (Side note: during a local protest action, I witnessed a caravan of police arrive at the courthouse and assemble on its steps. Several of them carried automatic weapons, machine guns. There were no protesters anywhere near the courthouse.)

In the video, others are promptly grabbed and thrown to the ground; a melee ensues. But it is all a melee of police aggression. At 7:53, one officer is seen manfully pushing against the protester's metal shield (behind which there are several women). It appears that people are being thrown to the ground and trussed up all around, but there actually weren't very many arrests. This is another reason to suspect that at least some of those being manhandled and "arrested" were actually police in training...

Shortly after 8:08 in the video another round of something goes off while some hapless individual is being manhandled on the street. What it is and why it is being fired is unknown, but members of the crowd react as if there was shrapnel in the munition, whatever it was. The police drag their quarry away, and as he passes the camera, a splash of yellow paint is seen on his jeans. In an earlier video from another angle, police officers are seen splashed with yellow paint. Whether this fellow is one who was throwing the paint, who knows, but his trussing up and dragging away is quite different than that of some of the other arrestees. He is, for example, placed in metal handcuffs which were applied while his hands were in front of rather than behind him. He is dragged away by his cuffs, but then is aided to stand up on his own (seen in another video) after which... what? I haven't seen any video that shows what happens to him, but it does make you wonder.

Meanwhile, in this video, another round of something goes off behind the metal "Gender Strike" shield at about 8:27. The camera pans and we see only one person holding up the shield in a cloud of smoke. Others come to help, and an officer pushes the shield over. The tall unhelmeted officer passes by another Snatch and Grab installation on the ground (by now, it is looking somewhat... shall we say... "artistic") talking on his radio or cell phone (hard to say). The crowd has thinned somewhat, and he turns to the circle of officers surrounding their latest quarry. There are two people on the ground, lots of photographers, and plenty of people standing around wondering WTF. The unhelmeted officer paces while he chats on the phone or radio. A member of the crowd approaches the officers screaming. As I say, by now, this scene has become something of a performance art installation.

At 10:00 in the video, the man on the ground is seen clearly, and he's actually one who was being arrested earlier, well before the munitions were fired. In the following video, he is asked his name by one of the livestreamers, and he says he doesn't want to be on camera, and he won't give his name, and I think I hear him saying "Put the camera down!". Of course, it is too late. But his size and appearance raise some questions in my mind, in addition to the fact that his desire not to be on camera or to give his name -- while not unheard of among arrestees -- is somewhat peculiar, as is the fact that he was kept on the ground for so long while munitions were being fired at the crowd (which included police.)

A police officer is seen holding one of the iconic Oakland garbage can shields, which is curious, but there you are. Meanwhile, the video ends with a close up of one of the officer's "less lethal" guns, officers splashed with yellow paint and an announcement: "We need you to clear the intersection".

Yes, well...

By this time, practically the only ones on the street are the police and the photographers...

I will wrap this up with OakTownPirate's video from within the melee. At one point, he is shoved to the ground by aggressive police but he yells that he's a journalist and they seem to leave him alone after that.

And of course none of this would have happened at all if the police hadn't decided to become aggressive against peaceful demonstrators. Police aggression was the sole reason for the melee.

It may be Oakland, and people may be used to it by now, but it is still wrong.

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