You might find it a bit confusing trying to keep track of the different times the Oakland Police department used tear gas on peaceful protesters yesterday. In the morning, they raided the Occupy Oakland camp and destroyed everything the occupiers had built, as I wrote about yesterday (and you can see video of that here).
But then, in the afternoon, this march gathered at the Oakland public library at 4 and proceeded to march back towards Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. In response, OPD declared the protest to be an unlawful assembly, gave us 5 minutes to disperse, and then attacked the crowd with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets. I was there until that point, and I can testify that it was a peaceful march until the police attacked it. Like this:
If you read an account of the march like this one -- or listen to the Oakland Police Chief here -- you will get the impression that the crowd was the aggressor ("Occupy Oakland demonstrators clashed...with police" and that "The demonstrators sparred") and that "[OPD] had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks and...chemical agents that were thrown at the officers." It's very hard to see everything that is happening in a huge crowd like that, so the Oakland police chi ef may well be telling the truth when he says that his officers were "pelted by paint and a chemical irritant"; I tend to suspect that something of that sort probably did happen. But only later. Whether or not his officers were hit with paint -- and even if that was more than a minor irritant -- it has nothing to do with how or why the OPD (and officers from every police department in the area) used the kind of force they did.
When a thousand people marched up Broadway to the intersection of Broadway and 14th -- and if you look at these pictures I posted yesterday, you're seeing the crowd; the third and fourth pictures were taken only one block from Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant plaza -- the police announced on a bullhorn, very quickly, that it was an unlawful assemb ly, they would use gas to disperse us, and that we would be subject to injury if we stayed. They said this very clearly -- and I saw the front line very clearly at this point -- before the crowd had done anything but take over the intersection.
And then the police did exactly what they said they would do. They were not reacting to anything other than the presence of a very large and angry crowd of protesters, who were at that point simply present. They said that if the crowd did not disperse, they would use force to disperse it, and they made good on their promise.
At that point, I have no idea what happened, because I left. The crowd left 14th and Broadway and began marching to Snow Park (whose occupation had also been raided by the police that morning); I figured that was the end of it and went home to eat and post pictures. At Snow Park, it seems, the general assembly decided to return to Oscar Grant plaza and then they did. But this video accurately represents exactly what happened from my perspective up until that point: the police warned an otherwise peaceful demonstration that they were illegal, and they would use "chemical agents" to make them disperse. And then they used chemical agents to make them disperse. Only they didn't. Moreover, they just happened to begin firing tear gas into the crowd right after the two major media outlets that were covering it with live feeds turned off their cameras. That coincidence was quite a coincidence. ABC and CBS later claimed their helicopters had to refuel, and they did show footage from later. But what a coincidence that they turned off their cameras just before the police attacked? And that their helicopters ran out of gas at precisely the same time, that time?
Cross posted here: http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/14th-and-broadway/