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July 6, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Civil Liberties, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Roger’s note: As a UC Berkeley graduate, who as an undergraduate took part in free speech and anti-war protests, I maintain an abiding interest in the city and the campus.  The militarization of American police forces is an ominous development, and it is no coincidence that Berkeley is in the vanguard given its long and proud history of non-violent first amendment protest.  An imperial nation such as is the United States, which supports and spreads violence around the globe, will eventually see that violence erupt on its own shores.  This is surely the case with what we are witnessing today.  One is reminded of Malcolm X’s prophetic (in response to the Kennedy assassination): “the chickens have come home to roost.

 By Nick Sibilla, People’s Blog for the Constitution | Report, Friday, 06 July 2012 11:00

The police departments for Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California system have partnered together to buy an armored personnel carrier (APC). Not quite a tank, the APC is a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck, better known as a BearCat.

If approved, the APC will be paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Created in 2003, UASI funds counterterrorism measures in “high-threat, high-density urban areas.” From FY 2003 to 2011, over $6.5 billion was appropriated for UASI. In FY 2012, UASI had funding worth $490 million.

However, David Muhlhausen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has criticized UASI: ”Currently, there appears to be a virtual absence of independent, objective evidence indicating the effectiveness of UASI…Increased spending does not equal increased effectiveness.” Daniel Borgstrom, a former US Marine now active in the Occupy movement, recently urged the Berkeley City Council to reject the APC and police militarization: “I’m asking, please stay out of this urban warfare stuff.”

Meanwhile, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan praised the BearCat, calling it “a defensive resource” necessary to protect officers from being killed. But according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks the deaths of law enforcement officials, no officers from UC Berkeley or Albany have been killed in the line of duty and only two Berkeley police officers have ever been killed by gunfire. The last Berkeley police officer killed in the line of duty was in 1973. Furthermore, as Radley Balko observes at the Huffington Post:

We’re now about halfway through 2012, and this year is on pace to be the safest ever for America’s police officers…Fifty officers have died on duty so far this year, a 44-percent decrease from last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). More remarkably, 17 have died from gunfire, down 55 percent from last year. (21 died in traffic accidents, the remaining 12 in various other incidents.) If the second half of this year follows the first, fewer officers will have died on duty this year than in any year since 1944, a time when there were far, far fewer police officers.

In addition, there have been significant concerns about armored vehicles’ ability to violate civil liberties and increase police brutality. A spokesman for the UCPD insisted that the BearCat “is not going to be used for protests or crowd control…it’s nothing to be feared.”

However, police in nearby Alameda County (which includes Oakland) used a $323,000 grant from Homeland Security to buy an APC from Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater). That APC was even used to suppress protests by the Occupy in May 2012. The Inter Press Service elaborates:

Locally, police militarisation was evident at the Nov. 9, 2011 Occupy Cal demonstration at UC Berkeley, where combat-gear clad police injured peaceful protesters with baton strikes, and on Oct. 25, 2011 in Oakland, when similarly armed police nearly killed a young former Marine when they fired a tear-gas canister that hit him in the head.

Due to mutual aid agreements, whereby law enforcement agencies can assist each other, the UCPD could share the APC with both the Berkeley and Albany police departments. The decision to renew mutual aid has previously been postponed, thanks to efforts by the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, which is advised by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

As Emily Odgers noted earlier this year, turning police into soldiers has eroded the Constitution:

This clash between Occupy protesters and police highlighted a need to stand in support of the protection of First Amendment rights. In the past ten years, there has been a decay of constitutional freedoms in America and the only way to get them back is through cooperative grassroots movements.

This is not just an issue for Occupiers or other activists; the First Amendment applies to everyone and it is necessary that the rights described within it are preserved for all, if they are to be preserved for any.

For more information about efforts to defend constitutional rights in the Bay Area, contact the BORDC organizing team This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

On Lousy Coverage and the Police Riot Kitten Meme October 28, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy, Humor, Occupy Wall Street Movement, Uncategorized.
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10.28.11 – 11:38 AM

 

by Abby Zimet

The Washington Post is rightly taking heat for their print coverage of the Oakland police riots, which consisted of a bewilderingly irrelevant photo of a nice wittle cop petting a nice wittle kittie – Look Ma, no tear gas! – over the headline, “Protesters Wearing Out Their Welcome Nationwide.” Ok, we don’t expect much from them, but whoah. Meanwhile, online wise-acres are having a fine old time with it. A reminder on the media: Be wary of your source.

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” – Noam Chomsky.

 

http://assets.tumblr.com/iframe.html?10&src=http%3A%2F%2Foaklandriotcat.tumblr.com%2F&lang=en_US&name=oaklandriotcat&brag=0

Oakland Protesters Call for General Strike Against City October 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Published on Thursday, October 27, 2011 by Reuters

 

by Peter Henderson

An Iraq war veteran badly wounded in clashes between protesters and police remained in hospital on Thursday morning as activists called for a general strike against the Bay Area city.

Occupy Oakland protester Scott Olsen, a former U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran, is carried away after being injured during a demonstration in Oakland, California October 25, 2011. (Credit: REUTERS/Jay Finneburgh)

Occupy Oakland organizers said they had voted to stage the strike next week, intending to shut down the city following what a spokeswoman called the “brutal and vicious” treatment of protesters, including former U.S. Marine Scott Olsen.

Olsen, 24, has become a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide.

“We mean nobody goes to work, nobody goes to school, we shut the city down,” organizer Cat Brooks said. “The only thing they seem to care about is money and they don’t understand that it’s our money they need. We don’t need them, they need us.”

Here’s the full Occupy Oakland statement, that was passed by their General Assembly with a 96.9% majority:

We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.

We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.

All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.

While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.

The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.

The Strike Coordinating Council will begin meeting everyday at 5pm in Oscar Grant Plaza before the daily General Assembly at 7pm. All strike participants are invited. Stay tuned for much more information and see you next Wednesday.

Spokeswomen for the city of Oakland and Mayor Jean Quan could not immediately be reached for comment.

Brooks said a general strike was a “natural progression” following a crackdown by the city of Oakland early on Tuesday morning in which protesters were evicted from a plaza near city hall and 85 people were arrested.

Protesters sought to re-take that plaza on Tuesday night and were repeatedly driven back by police using stun grenades and tear gas. It was during one of those clashes that protesters say Olsen was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by police.

A spokesman for Highland General Hospital in Oakland has confirmed Olsen was listed in critical condition from injuries sustained during the protest, but could not say how he was hurt.

Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told a news conference his department was investigating the incident.

Olsen is believed to be the most seriously wounded person yet in confrontations between police and activists since Occupy Wall Street protests began last month in New York.

News of his injury ignited a furor among supporters of the protests. Activists in Oakland and elsewhere took to Twitter and other social media urging demonstrators back into the streets en masse.

More than 1,000 protesters moved onto the streets of Oakland again on Wednesday night as police largely kept their distance.

Friends say Olsen had been active in several anti-war veterans groups and had joined Oakland protesters in a gesture of solidarity after learning of the police crackdown there.

Keith Shannon, 24, who said he served with Olsen in Iraq, told Reuters his friend suffered a two-inch skull fracture and brain swelling and had been sedated and placed on a respirator in the hospital’s emergency room trauma center while neurosurgeons decided whether to operate.

Olsen served two tours in Iraq from 2006 to 2010 with the 3rd battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Shannon said, adding that he and Olsen deployed together and were assigned to a tactical communications unit.

(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb, Ben Berkowitz, Emmett Berg and Mary Slosson; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)

© 2011 Reuters
 
Published on Thursday, October 27, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

From Our Archives: Police Violence Shocks Activists, Others at Port of Oakland Protest

by Dana Hull

Common Dreams Editors’ Note: In light of the violence done by the Oakland, CA police against Occupy Oakland, we wanted to share with you this headline from our 2003 archives. The protesters took the city to court, and Oakland eventually awarded $2 million to 58 demonstrators for police abuses.

Published on Monday, April 7, 2003 by the San Jose Mercury News

A protestor, who refused to give her name, bears the wounds after she says was hit by Oakland police weapon during a anti-war protest in Oakland, Calif., Monday, April 7, 2003 outside the port area. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

 An anti-war demonstration at the Port of Oakland turned violent this morning when Oakland Police opened fire with wooden dowels, “sting balls,” concussion grendades, tear gas and other non-lethal weapons when protesters at the gates of two shipping lines refused an order to disperse.

Scores of protesters ran from a line of police or tried to hide behind nearby big rigs. At least a dozen demonstrators and nine longshoremen who were standing nearby were injured.

“Our guys were standing in one area waiting to go to work, and then the police started firing on the longshoremen,” said Henry Graham, the president of ILWU Local 10. “Some were hit in the chest with rubber bullets, and seven of our guys went to the hospital. I don’t want to imply that the police deliberately did this, but it doesn’t make sense.”

Berkeley resident Clay Hinson (R), who was shot once in the chest and twice in the back during an anti-war protest, shows his wounds to an Oakland Police sergeant (L) who takes his statement at the West Oakland train station, April 7, 2003. Oakland police fired rubber bullets and wooden pellets on Monday to disperse hundreds of anti-war protesters in what was believed to be their first such use against U.S. protesters since the American-led war on Iraq began. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

There have been so many anti-war demonstrations in the Bay Area in recent months that they have almost become routine, and most have been peaceful. Monday’s events mark the first time that local police have used projectiles to disperse crowds, and many demonstrators said they were stunned that the projectiles were fired at such close range.

“I was just marching in a big circle and the police lowered their guns at us,” said Scott Fleming, 29, who took off his shirt to reveal four large red and swollen welts on his back. “I turned to run and I started getting hit with wooden bullets. They just kept shooting at us, and I kept running. I’m a lawyer, and I’m seriously considering filing charges.”

The early morning mayhem came as a shock to veteran activists and Oakland leaders alike. Oakland was one of the first cities in the region to pass a resolution condeming the U.S.-led war with Iraq, and the City Council has a progressive reputation. Some well known public officials even turned out to participate in the early morning protest.

“I got hit a few times with rubber bullets,” said Dan Siegel, an attorney and member of the Oakland School Board. Siegel pulled a sting ball out of the pocket of his business suit and said he was outraged that the police fired on a peaceful protest. “The police totally overreacted. It’s over the top. They were reckless, and I also saw an officer on a motorcycle run over a woman’s foot.”

The port protest was one of several anti-war demonstrations held Monday in the Bay Area. Several people were arrested at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, and seven were arrested after they temporarily blocked an off-ramp from Interstate 280 in San Francisco. Other demonstrators walked in a circle in front of the federal building in San Francisco, drumming wooden spoons together as federal employees arrived for work.

The action at the Port was the largest. Hundreds of demonstrators met near dawn Monday at the terminals of Neptune Orient Lines Ltd.’s APL unit and Stevedoring Services of America, shipping companies that activists say are profiting from the war.

An Oakland Police officer fires a shotgun towards a group of anti-war protesters near the Port of Oakland, April 7, 2003. Oakland police fired rubber bullets and wooden pellets on Monday to disperse hundreds of anti-war protesters in what was believed to be the first such use against U.S. protesters since the American-led war on Iraq began. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

 In late March, Stevedoring Services of America won a $4.8 million contract from the U.S. government to manage the Iraqi port Umm Qasr and ensure that urgent food assistance and materials flow smoothly through the seaport. Critics are screaming foul over the process, which excluded any foreign companies from bidding on the lucrative contracts.

The demonstrations at the port were planned with the quiet support of the ILWU, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Many rank-and-file members of ILWU Local 10 oppose the war with Iraq, and the local has its own Anti-War Action Committee.

Police fired into the crowd after some protesters failed to clear the street in front of the terminals.

“At that point, we fired non-lethal munitions,” said Danielle Ashford, an officer with the Oakland Police Department. “There were a few agitators in the crowd. The majority of them were peaceful.”

But others said they never saw any evidence of “agitators” and urged any witnesses to come to Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I was there from 5 a.m. on, and the only violence that I saw was from the police,” said Joel Tena, the constituent liason for Vice Mayor Nancy Nadel. “What happened today was very surprising. It seemed the police were operating under the assumption that they were not going to let any kind of protest happen.”

© 2003 San Jose Mercury News
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