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OPD “Overwhelming Military-Type Response” to ‘Occupy’ Protests Cited in Federal Judge’s Ultimatum to City of Oakland

Heavy-handed: OPD drew heavy criticism for its tactics against Occupy protesters. (Photo: Brett Wilkins)

Oakland, California has been issued a stern ultimatum by a federal judge who is demanding that the city deal with the avalanche of complaints against its police force over its harsh tactics against ‘Occupy’ protesters or face sanctions.

RT reports that US Federal District Judge Thelton Henderson voiced his deep concern over the Oakland Police Department’s “overwhelming military-type response” to ‘Occupy’ protests since late last year.

Among those victimized by police brutality at Oakland protests are: US Marine and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who was shot in the head by a non-lethal projectile while peacefully demonstrating at an ‘Occupy’ protest last October; Army Ranger and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Kayvan Sabehgi, whose spleen was ruptured after he was severely beaten by officers while trying to return home during a November demonstration; a female bicyclist named Leela who was knocked from her bike and clubbed by police at a January protest.

Police attempting to control Oakland ‘Occupy’ protests, at which fringe anarchist elements sometimes caused problems, resorted to a painful arsenal of non-lethal yet dangerous weaponry, including rubber bullets fired from shotguns, chemical agents including pepper spray and tear gas, wooden dowels and flash-bang grenades.

In response to the heavy criticism, Oakland Police recently announced that they would no longer target large groups of demonstrators for arrest, a tactic which previously swept up innocent protesters and even journalists along with troublemakers. Tuesday’s May Day protests, at which around 25 people were arrested, marked the debut of the new strategy.

“What we’re seeing is a maturation of their tactics,” Laleh Behbehanian of Occupy Oakland told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The first lesson that they’ve learned is mass tear gassing is really bad PR,” she added. “Now they’re no longer using indiscriminate force on protesters – that’s how they’re representing it.”

“This was our attempt to handle things on a smaller scale, in hopes of facilitating the majority’s freedom to assemble,” Oakland Police Sgt. Christopher Bolton told the Chronicle.

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