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Hot Time in the Old Town, A Few Nights Ago

by on October 28, 2011

Scott Olson became famous quickly, but probably not how he wanted to.  A former marine acting bravely shouldn’t come as any surprise.  A former marine being hit in the head by a projectile thrown by police, however, should come as a surprise.  “His injury” – a nice phrase for being hit hard in the head – “is believed to have damaged the speech centre of his brain.”

The Oakland Police appear to have raised the stakes against their own interests:

Smart crowd control requires letting protesters protest – giving them an outlet. In Oakland on Tuesday evening, long before anything bad happened, police decided to deny Occupy Oakland that outlet. A peaceful, if rowdy march was headed from the main library toward Frank Ogawa Plaza – the location from which they’d been forcefully evicted the night before. They were headed off by a hastily assembled line of police clad in riot gear. The protesters decided to change course and head toward the jail where, according to a National Lawyers’ Guild observer on the scene, 105 protesters were being detained.

Again, the police blocked their route. They made another turn (I don’t know what the objective was at that point) and were again blocked. The police did not have the manpower to actually block the many cross-streets we crossed, but somewhere a commander decided to put five or six cops on every side street. This was a stupid move, as five officers cannot keep 500 protesters, now angrier than they had been at the onset, at bay….

There were injuries and arrests. I think none of it would have happened had they decided to let the protesters chant, “let them go!” for a while in front of the jail instead of forcing them – seemingly arbitrarily– to walk around in circles facing off against line after line of police blocking their way….

The police response last night wasn’t the most brutal I’ve seen (that honor goes to the dozen Florida police agencies that descended on Miami to crush protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2002), but it was the most inept. By aggressively boxing in protesters again and again, law enforcement simply ratcheted up the pressure for no apparent purpose.

From → On the Dole

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