Legal observers condemn Oakland police response to Donald Trump protests

Anti-Trump protests on Broadway in Oakland


OAKLAND (BCN) — Protest legal observers Monday condemned the “brutal force” allegedly used by Oakland police during large demonstrations against Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president, saying that the police response was the worst in Oakland since Occupy protests five years ago.

Representatives of the National Lawyers Guild said at a news conference Monday that they documented several violations of the city’s crowd control policy during five days of demonstrations following Trump’s election on Nov. 8.

According to Carey Lamprecht, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Bay Area demonstrations committee, the violations included using tear gas and flashbang grenades without warning or provocation, injuring
protesters during arrests, and driving motorcycles on sidewalks in an attempt to intimidate demonstrators.

The NLG is representing two injured protesters who suffered chipped teeth and a broken jaw while they were arrested, Lamprecht said.

She declined to discuss the specifics of their cases and said NLG lawyers are trying to determine if the officers who arrested them were from Oakland police or the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

The largest demonstration in Oakland drew an estimated 7,000 protesters on Nov. 9 and eventually erupted in conflict between protesters and police, with police using tear gas and flashbang grenades and protesters setting fires in the streets and throwing objects at police.

Twelve outside agencies assisted the Oakland Police Department during the Nov. 9 protest. Over Nov. 9 and 10, Oakland police made more than 40 arrests, according to Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson.

Watson also said after the demonstrations that five people required medical assistance on Nov. 9, but could not immediately say if they were protesters or how they were injured.

“The Oakland Police Department takes all use of force incidents seriously. Currently, the department is investigating and reviewing the use of force incidents that occurred during protests this month,” Watson said in
a statement Monday.

“Per departmental policy, we review all uses of force. Additionally, the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division investigates all use of force complaints,” she said.

The National Lawyers Guild is a nonprofit organization that documents protests and offers legal representation for protesters. The organization was part of a lawsuit brought on behalf of anti-war protesters in 2003 that led to the drafting of the current Oakland police crowd control policy.

The NLG is representing protesters who are suing the city of Berkeley for its response to Black Lives Matter protests in 2014 and are considering legal action over the anti-Trump protests.

The election of Trump, a business mogul who has never held elected office, has led to widespread fear and anxiety among Oakland residents because of his extreme campaign promises, including to deport thousands of undocumented immigrants and build a massive wall along the Mexican border.

As he takes office and starts to implement his agenda, protests will likely continue, Lamprecht said.

“We’re seeing a log of folks who wouldn’t necessarily be activists out in the streets,” Lamprecht said.

On the day after the election, protesters gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza and snaked through city streets for about three hours without a major incident, according to Jonathan Sidney, a legal observer with NLG.

There were scattered reports of vandalism but no confrontations with officers.

The conflict started when protesters went by Oakland police headquarters at the corner of Seventh Street and Broadway. Police often block crowds from approaching the police station while letting them march unimpeded through most of the rest of the city.

The Nov. 9 march was led by organizers on the back of a large open-bed truck. NLG interim executive director Cat Brooks, also the founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project, said she was on the back of the truck when the march went by police headquarters and swiftly grew more confrontational.

Sidney said Oakland police provoked the crowd by making a “baseless arrest.” After that, they deployed tear gas without provocation or a prior announcement. Brooks said tear gas was deployed within two minutes after the officers declared an illegal assembly.

“I’ve been in these streets for about a decade,” Brooks said. “We haven’t seen this level of force since Occupy.”

Even NLG observers were targets of the police response, Sidney said, as police pushed back and jabbed at some of them who were trying to document arrests.

Brooks blamed a failure of leadership for the departure of Oakland police officers from its crowd control policy, singling out Assistant Chief

David Downing, the highest-ranking member of the department since the departure of three chiefs in about a week in June.

Oakland officials are currently reviewing applications to hire a new permanent police chief.

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