Moral Low Ground


400 “Domestic Terrorists,” Including at least 6 Journalists, Arrested at Occupy Oakland Protest; Widespread Police Brutality Observed

Nearly 400 people, including at least half a dozen journalists, were arrested in Oakland on Saturday as an ‘Occupy’ demonstration that began peacefully in the morning deteriorated into clashes between protesters and police, who once again resorted to chemical and tactical weapons and other brutality in order to crush the uprising. One Oakland city councilman called the protesters “domestic terrorists.” But Occupy Oakland is accusing police of “unlawful actions” because they did not give protesters adequate orders to disperse before resorting to dubious tactics, brutality and arrests.

Saturday’s protest centered around an attempt to occupy the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center in downtown Oakland, which protesters wanted to transform into a social center. To thwart this planned action, police surrounded the facility. Some protesters tore down sections of a fence blocking access to the convention center, resulting in the firing of chemical weapons and multiple arrests.

As many as 2,000 protesters then returned to the site of the former Occupy Oakland encampment in Frank Ogawa (Oscar Grant) Plaza adjacent to City Hall. They skirmished with police en route, with some protesters throwing objects at officers who responded with smoke and flash-bang grenades, tear gas and “non-lethal” projectiles fired from shotguns.

This show of force temporarily scattered the demonstrators, who soon regrouped and continued their march as police kettled hundreds of them outside a YMCA. Sympathetic YMCA employees opened the door to allow protesters to escape the police net; according to KPFA police beat anyone in their way as they stormed the YMCA building, arresting people who were reportedly charged with felony burglary even though employees had allowed them into the building.

Some of those who managed to avoid arrest at the YMCA proceeded to City Hall, where some entered the building and engaged in acts of vandalism.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, slammed from both left and right for her handling of past Occupy protests, implored demonstrators to “stop using Oakland as a playground.”

“People in the community and people in the Occupy movement have to stop making excuses for this behavior,” she said.

Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente raised eyebrows and ire by opining that the Occupy protests were “domestic terrorism.”

But many protesters said that the police were the real terrorists. KPFA reports that demonstrators were brutally beaten; there was a report that someone’s teeth were knocked out.

Occupy Oakland also claims that police failed to give adequate dispersal orders, an assertion flatly denied by authorities. At one point, police did declare the march an “unlawful assembly” and began arresting people without giving loud enough warning to disperse or providing suitable exit routes.

“Tonight’s mass arrest occurred without a dispersal order,” one protester is quoted in RT. “No law was broken. The only order given was: ‘You are under arrest. Submit to your arrest.'”

Even worse, police “kettled” protesters so that they had no way to leave, essentially blocking front and rear exits before charging in, batons swinging, to arrest demonstrators en masse.

“Contrary to their own policy, the Oakland Police Department [OPD] gave no option of leaving or instruction on how to depart. These arrests are completely illegal, and this will probably result in another class-action lawsuit against the OPD,” a press release from Occupy Oakland reads.

Swept up in the mass arrests were at least six accredited journalists. These arrests were in direct violation of OPD media relations policy which states that “media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status.” Among those arrested were reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, East Bay Express and  San Francisco Bay Guardian. When some of these journalists displayed their credentials, they were told flat-out that they weren’t valid since they weren’t issued by the city of Oakland.

The arrest and brutalization of journalists is the main reason cited by Reporters Without Borders why the United States has recently plummeted 27 places to #47 in worldwide press freedom.

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