Militarization of Police

An Iraq War Veteran is in Critical Condition After Occupy Oakland Scuffles, Police Won't Confirm What Weapons They Used

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According to Oakland, California's official press release/FAQ on the recent difficulties (video) of removing Occupy Oakland protesters from their encampment, the local Police Department didn't do a lot of things:

Q. Did the Police deploy rubber bullets, flash-bag grenades?

A. No, the loud noises that were heard originated from M-80 explosives thrown at Police by protesters. In addition, Police fired approximately four bean bag rounds at protesters to stop them from throwing dangerous objects at the officers.

Q. Where there any injures?

A. At this time, there are no reported injuries.

Nobody is suggesting protesters—especially any of the 100-plus who were arrested in the Oakland confrontations—don't have a logical interest in being portrayed as victims of police brutality, or that some of them aren't fully capable of playing politics on these matters (though how much highly-publicized incidents like this help protesters' causes is debatable).

Still there's plenty of folks who doubt the official police story of what happened between them and the several hundred protesters. (Fullest of disclosures: I have a friend who was at Occupy Oakland, but I don't yet know what happened to him, if anything.) 

First of all, according to mercurynews.com, the Oakland PD say they didn't use non-lethal weapons beyond tear gas, but somebody might have:

"We had to deploy gas to stop people from throwing rocks and bottles at police,"said Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan, adding that he was unsure about what other crowd control methods were used by outside police agencies. There were unconfirmed reports that flash-bang grenades and wood dowels were launched at protesters.

Mother Jones just got down to it with the headline "Oakland Police Turn on #OWS With Tear Gas, Flash-Bang Grenades," writing:

Police officers cracked down with rubber bullets (which the Oakland Police Department denies, but it says it cannot speak for 15 other law enforcement agencies on scene), tear gas, and flash-bang grenades on protesters marching through downtown Oakland. 

Now The Guardian is reporting that an Iraq War veteran is in critical condition after he suffered a skull fracture from either a tear gas canister or a flash-bang grenade.

In this video you can also see an officer launch an object (The Guardian suggests it's a flash-bang grenade) in the direction of the veteran who is already on the ground, causing protesters who had come to assist him to scatter. Here is another angle:

The paper also has an excellent round-up of Occupy Oakland's tweets and photographs of the melee, including one that purports to be of a rubber bullet and another of a nasty welt from a "rubber bullet or beanbag round." 

A tweet from Mother Jones notes that there was indeed some aggressive response from the crowd:

For context, one of our reporters saw line of cops covered with paint and eggs and looking exhausted.#occupyoakland #ows

But OaklandNorth.net tweeted: "Another bottle thrown, the crowd as a whole begins chanting, "Don't throw shit!" #occupyoakland." The bottle throwing is also confirmed by the Mother Jones reporter.

Regardless of the ideal solution to the problem of hundreds of people sitting in a park, some of whom are disobeying police orders, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's official statement of thanks to all cops who helped "peacefully close the encampment" is clearly complete nonsense.

Reason on militarization of police, protests, and Occupy Wall Street. Also Radley Balko on the dangers of flash-bang grenades.