As an organization dedicated to upholding human rights and social justice, the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) is alarmed by the Oakland Police (OPD) and Alameda County Sheriff's Departments' ongoing violence, harassment, and unconstitutional arrests of Occupy Oakland protesters.
Last night, January 4, 2012, video footage again showed OPD violating its own Crowd Control policy by raiding the Occupy Oakland demonstration at Oscar Grant/ Frank Ogawa Plaza and grabbing select individuals for arrest, without warning and for no apparent reason. OPD has repeatedly targeted well-known Occupy Oakland activists for arrest, mostly without legal grounds or on petty offenses, in an apparent attempt to suppress the Occupy movement's legitimate First Amendment activity. Over the past three weeks, OPD has repeatedly raided the lawful protest vigil at Oscar Grant Plaza, using selective and bizarre interpretations of city and state ordinances to justify aggressively arresting and jailing the demonstrators. Again and again, the police have charged into crowds of peaceful protesters and grabbed individuals protesters who were doing nothing wrong and posed no threat.
"We have already had to sue the Oakland Police twice in the past year for violating their own Crowd Control Policy, but the violations continue," explained attorney Mike Flynn, president of NLGSF. "We have ongoing litigation in federal court to stop the unconstitutional arrests, violence against, and illegal prolonged detention of demonstrators in the Alameda County Jails. Yet, OPD has continued to assault Occupy Oakland protesters, confiscate their food and belongings, and hold them under cruel conditions in jail for days at a time, only to release most with no charges or with only very minor violations."
California law requires that persons arrested for minor offenses be released with a citation, and not held in custody, with certain specific exceptions. Yet, the Occupy protesters have routinely been held handcuffed for hours in police vehicles and detained under unconscionable conditions in jail. The 12 people arrested last night are currently being held on $5,000 and $10,000 bail, even though it is unlikely they will be charged with any crime. The same practices were directed against Oscar Grant demonstrators in 2010, resulting in a pending NLG class action civil rights lawsuit, Spalding et al. v. Oakland and Alameda County. In that case, NLGSF is asking U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson to enforce the Crowd Control Policy the court ordered in previous NLG - ACLU litigation arising from OPD violence against protesters, and to stop the pre-charging detention. A second NLG - ACLU lawsuit filed in November, 2011, Campbell et al. v. Oakland, also seeks to stop OPD from violating the Crowd Control Policy by shooting protesters with less lethal projectiles and requests compensation for those who were injured, some quite seriously.
"It's unbelievable the amount of resources the City is expending in these lean times for the sole goal of squelching political protest," declared NLGSF Director Carlos Villarreal. "In the midst of the biggest social protest movement in decades, the City of Oakland and the OPD must decide whether they are going to be 1%-ers, using violence and propaganda to crush the Occupy Wall Street movement, or whether they will support the 99% and devote their resources to actually solving problems."
The NLGSF has provided legal support to progressive activism for decades, including training and sending legal observers to protests to collect evidence of police abuse and providing pro bono lawyers to defend accused activists. The NLGSF is the Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild – a national non-proï¬t legal and political organization of lawyers, legal workers, law students and jailhouse lawyers founded in 1937. We represent progressive political movements, using the law to protect human rights above property interests and to attain social justice.