AN OAKLAND MEDIC’S FIRSTHAND REPORT OF THE EVENTS OF JANUARY 28
First of all, I was privileged to be out there with a lot of brave and beautiful people. I’d like to give my own account of what happened
on Saturday, because the mainstream coverage I’ve seen has been universally laughable, not that that’s any surprise. Folks were mostly gathered up in Oscar Grant Plaza by about noon, and the march started around 1 or 1:30. There were probably between one and two thousand marchers. There was a sound truck playing music, and the mood was festive and happy. Parents brought their children along, and the whole thing felt a bit like a roving dance party in the streets. There was also a bus following along which the police detained about halfway through the first part of the march on some minor infraction like people weren’t all wearing their seat belts or something.
When the demonstrators reached the first target building, it was already heavily surrounded by riot cops, and people didn’t even try to get near it. I don’t think anyone was actually expecting the “secret” target to stay secret, given the open nature of the movement and the heavy infiltration. By this point police had begun targeted arrests against certain individuals which were evidently on their list of organizers or repeat “troublemakers”. Nonetheless, the marchers were being quite peaceful and were prepared to just continue the march around the city. The police weren’t having that though, and they fired a number of smoke grenades into the crowd, which caused a bit of a panic since many people initially thought it was teargas. Minor injuries were incurred amongst the marchers.
A number of older demonstrators as well as people with children decided that this was a good time to call it a day and headed away from the main police line and crowd. Police then rushed in and attempted to arrest some of the parents for endangering their children. I’m not sure exactly how this turned out, but I was told that a number of parents were able to get away with their children. Police began to close on the demonstrators who decided to continue the march through the city. Soon after police began to deploy actual tear gas along with beanbag rounds and paint balls apparently intended to mark people for later arrest. Police claim that people were throwing things at them after this. I didn’t witness demonstrators throwing anything, but it is possible. I don’t find it to be a constructive activity, but I also can’t blame people for being angry after a peaceful march was attacked. Medics responded to high numbers of chemical contamination and blunt force trauma cases.
As the march continued, police started to use a new tactic which recklessly endangered lives and led to many injuries. They would form up in a line behind the marchers and then on some signal charge towards the back of the march with their batons at the ready. Although attempts were made among the demonstrators to keep everyone calm, inevitably many people started running as a natural reaction to seeing a line of angry club-wielding police charging at them. Lots of people got knocked down in the press of bodies. People helped up whoever they could, but I have no idea how many people were injured during this or how badly. The police continued to use this tactic all the way back to Oscar Grant Plaza, charging forward for a block before stopping for a minute or two and then charging again. This charging tactic served absolutely no crowd control purpose, as they were pushing people in the direction the march was already going, and they could have just marched behind the demonstrators keeping pace, since nobody wanted to get within arm’s reach of them anyways.
Anyways, people regrouped at OGP to rest, wash up, seek medical attention, and eat. After some time, a decision was made to march around downtown Oakland again. The march was somewhat smaller this time, but probably still around 1,000 people. Oaklanders don’t give into police intimidation easily. The march eventually became a bit of a cat-and-mouse game as lines of police tried to surround the marchers and “kettle” them in for mass arrests. At one point fairly early on the police nearly succeeded, but a temporary chain link fence was pulled down allowing most or all of the marchers an escape route. Later on, a group of ~50-100 demonstrators did get blocked in on a section of Broadway without any side streets. Police then rushed in, jabbing, pushing, and beating people with batons until they were forced back into a corner near a YMCA building. Some people may have escaped through the YMCA building, and police used this to claim that the protesters were trying to take over the building, although I’m fairly certain this was never the plan since the YMCA was open and operational, not abandoned. Once the group of demonstrators was blocked in and completely surrounded, police announced that this was an unlawful assembly and ordered
them to disperse. A few people tried to leave with their hands raised and were promptly thrown on the ground, beaten, and arrested. The police undoubtedly thought that they were quite clever with the Catch-22 situation they had constructed, but I doubt any of the subsequent arrest charges are going to stick as a result. Getting the charges to stick was probably not the point though.
The demonstrators were pinned into the corner like this for probably 40-60 minutes before enough police buses and vans showed up for mass arrests to begin. As the time approached, the police suddenly singled out on of the demonstrators and yanked him out of the crowd, threw him down and cuffed him. It is likely this was one of the people on their special list. A small bag of powder (possibly meth) was planted on him as he was dragged away. Given the fact that everyone knew they were going to be arrested for the past half hour or so, it is utterly illogical that this person wouldn’t have ditched the drugs if they really were his. He was overheard to say that they weren’t his, that he didn’t do drugs, and was willing to take a drug test right then and there to prove it.
Police later arrested a large number of demonstrators near OGP using similar tactics. Apparently some demonstrators got into City Hall, although I’m not sure if any arrests were made in the building. Some people were taken to jail in Oakland, others to Santa Rita (a much nastier place) in Dublin. Some were cited and released the next day, others are still in police custody.
Given my impending court appearance, I don’t want to discuss the exact involvement I may or may not have had in any of the above. I
think, however, this provides a much more accurate picture of what went down than has been presented in the mainstream media, and
I thank you for taking the time to hear the other side.
A Comrade Reports on Inhumane Treatment of Occupy Arrestees at Santa Rita
My name is Joshua. I was in custody of the County of Alameda from Saturday to Monday night. My experience at Santa Rita jail was trivial compared to the many women and men locked up as part of a broad practice of political and economic discipline that is being increasingly recognized around the world as being unusually and increasingly brutal and systemic, such that US prisons now lag behind a broad sampling of nations in matters of human rights.
My experience was also not as severe as several others incarcerated with me. I was not beaten. Three people I know were denied medication for HIV infections while being held for multiple days, which is a life-threatening choice made by the county. This was part of a wider practice, while we were there, of denying services required by law.
Let me say briefly what I did experience. I was held for 53 hours for a misdemeanor charge which every single person here, and there, knows will never be brought, and indeed which will be met with a class action suit for wrongful arrest that the city of Oakland will be compelled to settle.
I have a perforated peptic ulcer. Early on in the stay I requested non—prescription care — liquid antacid, which the jail keeps on hand — when I began to have an ulcer attack, which is to say, when I began to bleed internally. I was not given such care until an attorney was able to intervene by phone many hours later. I received one capful, which was mildly effective for about three hours. Further requests were ignored. As many will know, a bleeding ulcer attack is both painful and potentially fatal.
During that period I was moved from cell to cell seven times, for a total of eight different cell visits. My attorney came to the jail and was not allowed to see me. She was told I hadn’t been processed yet, which was not the case. Food was often not provided for periods of up to 14 hours. For a long period I shared a cell with 27 other people; it was about 10 by 10 feet. For a period I was in a cell labeled “Maximum Occupancy: 2.” There were ten of us, three very sick. We stood. One of the people slumped over on the toilet, that being the alternative to standing.
But the cell in which I spent the longest time was the drunk tank looking out onto the jail’s intake office, its processing area, and its document table. Which is to say that, while I waited by the door hoping to speak with a guard about medication, hoping that the pain might be eased and the internal bleeding slowed, I had considerable opportunity to watch the intake and booking operations and the larger workflow of the processing operation. I have worked in a few offices, many of them in large state institutions; I feel reasonably well-equipped and positioned to make some simple points about what was happening.
But anybody could. Because the main thing that happened was…nothing. There were repeated periods — 30 minutes, an hour, two hours — in which the deputies and other workers at Santa Rita Jail simply chose not to process anyone though the system. The three fingerprinting machines stood idle. The intake windows didn’t operate. The prisoner files sat on the table. All this time, hundred of people who will obviously prove to have been falsely arrested — all of them hungry, some very sick, with families and loved ones and jobs — sat in cells filled well past double the legal occupancy.
I could imagine a defense, albeit a weak one, which suggested that the employees were occupied by other matters in the jail, dealing with prisoners or whatnot; and that the jail was over capacity. But here is the last thing: the cell I was in for this period also had clear view of the internal surveillance camera screens, showing a matrix of images from other parts of the jail. Empty cells were clearly visible. There were no ongoing complications happening elsewhere. Obviously I could see the employees, not on screen but clearly through the cell door window. They were sitting there. Sometimes they had coffee. Occasionally they left their posts to go to the bathroom.
Those waiting outside will recognize this in the rate at which people were released: small groups every couple of hours, often. I would estimate that even an indifferent and minimally capable set of deputies — and who could expect more from them? — could process perhaps 40 people an hour. A clear choice was made not to do so. One can only speculate about reasons, but need not speculate regarding intent. Perhaps these employees are aware that they serve a corrupt and dangerous isntitution and service and, even if they have internalized ats values, its racism and sexism and homophobia and its generalized brutality, they are trying to destryoy it from within by intentionally incompetent labor. It is not a terrible strategy. But I encourage them, if that is the case, to have the courate of their convictions rather than the habitual cowardice of bullies…and take the task of destroying the jails more serious. Many of my friends, and many unknown comrades, have a limited amount of time.
FEBRUARY 20: OCCUPY SAN QUENTIN!
(as part of National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners – proposed by Angela Davis and passed through Oakland’s General Assembly)
Meet at : East Gate, San Quentin. Monday, February 20, 2012, 12 noon – 3pm.
Carpool/meet-up – 10am at Oscar Grant Plaza (14th and Broadway, Oakland)
Email occupy4prisoners [at] gmail [dot] com for more information.
OCCUPY OAKLAND SUPPORTS OUR COMRADES INSIDE! ABOLISH THE PRISON-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!