Occupy Oakland Seeks End to Police Brutality

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Five protesters teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California in a federal lawsuit this week to stop alleged police brutality at Occupy Oakland demonstrations.

Timothy Campbell and four others say they have been peacefully participating in the ongoing Occupy Oakland demonstrations, but now fear for their safety after the recent use of excessive police force.

“This force includes the indiscriminate use of explosive devices, lead-shot-filled projectiles fired from shotguns, nightsticks, and rubber-encased bullets,” according to the 18-page complaint. “At least two demonstrators have suffered extremely serious injuries during these demonstrations: one a fractured skull, the other a ruptured spleen.”

The protester who suffered the fractured skull, Scott Olsen, is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the complaint. Police allegedly tossed gas canisters and flash-bang grenades at protesters who wanted to help Olsen as he lay “dripping with blood.” They deployed the same munitions against a nearby person in a wheelchair trying to leave the area, according to the complaint.

Olsen is not a party to this lawsuit, which recounts several other much-publicized examples of police brutality at the protests.

On Oct. 25, the day that Oakland police evicted demonstrators from the city hall plaza, two plaintiffs say they encountered police violence.

One says he was shot with a less-lethal munition while stopping on his bicycle to pick up debris near a demonstration.

The other says a projectile hit him in the ankle and a flash-bang grenade detonated so close to his head “that it caused a ringing in his ears and affected his hearing,” according to the complaint.

The Oct. 25 raid allegedly spurred sympathy protests that drew even further violence.

“During a large, peaceful march that afternoon, OPD and its agents used batons to beat one protester who had fallen to the ground and against others who were trapped in a dense crowd and unable to disperse or move because of the press of the crowd,” the complaint states. “Also during this march, OPD fired so-called beanbags (which are actually bags filled with lead shot that are fired from a shotgun) into a group of people that were doing nothing more than failing to move as quickly as the rest of the crowd in response to a police order. Instead of throwing the flash-bang grenades and tear gas canisters at a safe distance away from the crowd, officers instead threw them directly at the crowd, and without any audible warnings of imminent use.” (Parentheses and italics in original.)

In addition to dispersing peaceful protests that evening despite the fact that no illegal conduct had occurred, the police also resorted to violence without warning and without first attempting less forceful tactics.

Lead plaintiff Timothy Campbell says he was shot in the leg with a lead-filled projectile while filming police officers at the protest on Nov. 2.

All five plaintiffs live in Oakland.

Oakland’s interim police chief, Howard Jordan, is named as a defendant alongside the city.

The plaintiffs demand a restraining order and injunction to prevent further alleged violations of their rights under the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments. They are represented by the National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco-based attorney Rachel Lederman and ACLU attorney Alan Schlosser, also of San Francisco.