MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As the medical condition of Marine Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen appears to have improved, he is becoming the Neda Agha-Soltan - the martyr of the Iranian Green Revolution - of the "Occupy" struggle for economic justice.
What occurred this week in Oakland - including the wounding of Olsen - shouldn't have happened. In June of 2004, the Oakland Police Department reached an agreement to refrain from using the kind of bloody and militarized tactics that they employed earlier this week.
According to a November 2004 San Francisco Chronicle article:
Oakland police will no longer indiscriminately use wooden or rubber bullets, Taser stun guns, pepper spray and motorcycles to break up crowds, under an agreement announced Friday....
The new policy settles part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed by 52 people who claimed their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly were violated as they targeted two shipping companies with contracts tied to the war in Iraq.
"What we've done is create a comprehensive policy that really provides a much more sensible, reasoned approach to managing demonstrations and crowds," said Rachel Lederman of the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco.
Obviously, as Olsen's situation demonstrates, the Oakland Police did not adhere to the letter or spirit of the 2004 agreement on Tuesday night. Lederman told the San Francisco Chronicle that when the policy was negotiated, "these projectile weapons are very dangerous. It was only a matter of luck that someone wasn't killed on April 7, 2003, in Oakland. That's what we're trying to prevent."
Lederman is referring to a 2003 Oakland police riot against anti-Iraq war demonstrators that resulted in the serious wounding of many protesters. In fact, according to ThinkProgress, "the demonstrators were not without recourse. They took the city to court, and Oakland eventually awarded $2 million to 58 demonstrators for police abuses."
You would think that after signing an agreement and paying out taxpayer money to "compensate" for abusive police practices, the Oakland Police Department would learn how to behave in a civilized fashion when dealing with people exercising their First Amendment rights.
Meanwhile, the Oakland School Board voted on Wednesday night, this week, to close five elementary schools, in large part due to budget constraints. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland school district officials say that the school closings will save about $2 million a year, about what the Oakland Police Department paid out to protesters it abused in 2003.
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