On November 3, 2011, tens of thousands of Oaklanders participated in a historic General Strike to protest economic injustice and demand accountability for last week's police brutality. The day was full of families, young and old, and people from all backgrounds marching, rallying, and engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. After midnight, however, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Legal Observers witnessed the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Alameda County Sheriff Department, and other agencies acting under their direction, violently attack protesters for the second time in eight days. The NLG is now preparing legal action to enforce the court ordered Crowd Control Policy, stop the abuses and obtain redress for persons who have been unlawfully injured or arrested.
In 2004, OPD adopted a comprehensive Crowd Control Policy drafted by NLG and ACLU attorneys in partial settlement of a lawsuit arising from OPD's use of "less lethal" munitions to shoot antiwar demonstrators and longshoremen at the Port. The Policy was incorporated into United States District Court Judge Thelton Henderson's settlement order, and as part of this court ordered settlement, the City of Oakland was required to ensure that every OPD officer and commander received ongoing training on the policy.
However, for the second time in 10 days, OPD and other officers attacked activists with disproportionate force. The NLG has received reports of many serious injuries caused by law enforcement use of "less lethal" munitions, including tear gas, rubber bullets and "flash bang" grenades. Five NLG Legal Observers, clearly identified with neon green hats, were among the nearly 100 people arrested without legal justification.
"Like we saw last Tuesday, the OPD actions in the late night hours violated numerous provisions of the Crowd Control Policy and the Constitutional rights of activists," explained NLG's San Francisco Bay Area chapter president Michael Flynn. "Our legal observers did not disobey any police orders and neither did many of the other arrestees."
"The Crowd Control Policy clearly prohibits shooting munitions into a crowd," added NLG attorney Rachel Lederman. "While the police are allowed to use tear gas, they are supposed to use a minimum amount and only where other crowd control tactics have failed. It is not at all clear that less violent and less provocative measures would not have sufficed to achieve any legitimate law enforcement objectives last night."
The NLG filed a class action lawsuit for damages and injunctive relief against Oakland and Alameda County several months ago based on false arrests of Oscar Grant demonstrators and one NLG legal observer. That case is currently pending before U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson.