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Civil Rights Leaders Condemn Oakland Police Violence

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) flagrantly violated its own Crowd Management and Crowd Control Policy and foundational principles of international human rights law during its dispersal on Tuesday morning of peacefully assembled citizens at Occupy Oakland.

On Tuesday morning, hundreds of riot police used “less-lethal” projectiles and tear gas to disperse a largely peaceful assembly. Scott Olsen, an Iraqi war veteran and Occupy protester, was hit in the head with a projectile and is now in the hospital in critical condition with a fractured skull. After Scott was hit, video evidence shows him lying on the ground and shows that police made no moves to come to his aid. Rather, video shows that when a small group of protesters went to assist Scott, the OPD fired a projectile (what appears to be a sound and light diversionary device or “flash-bang”) directly at the group who came to his aid, in clear violation of OPD Policy that such devices be “deployed to explode at a safe distance from the crowd to minimize the risk of personal injury.”

The Police Department initially denied the use of certain projectiles. However, significant evidence from the scene and reports from protesters suggest that the police used both “flash bang” projectiles and rubber bullets.

This is only the latest incident of excessive and violent policing of Occupy protests by US police departments. At Occupy Wall Street, police have driven scooters and ridden horses into groups of protesters; punched, thrown, pushed, and hit protesters with batons; and used pepper spray against them. Journalists and legal observers have also been subjected to violence.

We call for an immediate, effective, and independent investigation into the violent police response to the Occupy demonstration in Oakland, and for OPD officers and commanders to be held responsible for their violent acts.  Police training and practices should be reformed to ensure that police respect the rights of protesters to peacefully assemble and protest, and at a minimum, actually comply with their own Crowd Control Policy.

The use of excessive and violent policing in response to the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the United States must end.

Signed,

Center for Constitutional Rights

National Lawyers Guild, New York City Chapter

Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights

Margaret Satterthwaite, Professor, NYU School of Law

Sarah Knuckey, Human Rights Lawyer and Adjunct Professor, NYU School of Law

Holly Maguigan, Professor, NYU School of Law

Emi MacLean, Human Rights Lawyer

Ellen Yaroshefsky, Director of Jacob Burns Center for Ethics in the Practice of Law, Benjamin Cardozo Law School. 

Gideon Orion Oliver, Esq.

Ron Kuby, Civil Rights Attorney

Chloe Cockburn, Civil Rights Attorney, Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP

Rebecca M. Heinegg, Esq.

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