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Oakland Cops Ran Wild, Academic Says

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Oakland Police beat a political scientist as he tried to secure his bicycle during an Occupy Oakland march, then falsely charged him with an assaulting an officer, the man claims in court.

Video of the attack was posted on YouTube.

Robert Ovetz sued Oakland, its Police Department, Police Chief Howard Jordan, three named officers and 20 Doe officers, in Federal Court.

Ovetz claims police beat him with a baton and "slammed" his head into the ground, then falsely charged him with assault and battery of an officer.

"On Jan. 28, 2012, plaintiff arrived in Oakland to observe the 'Occupy Oakland' movement 'move in day' activities. Plaintiff is an academic researcher and political scientist currently engaged in the study of the history of political violence in social movements. He had been following the Occupy Oakland movement rather closely and intended to study the events of the day," Ovetz says in the complaint.

Ovetz, of political science professor from Marin County, says he rode his bicycle to the march, which gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza across from Oakland City Hall.

"Plaintiff dismounted and peacefully walked his bicycle with the crowds for a while," the complaint states.

"After some time had elapsed, the crowd began walking back to the plaza."

Ovetz "observed people running up on to the sidewalk. As he looked southbound, he saw a line of Oakland Police officers rushing forward to this location. Plaintiff looked for a means of egress with his bicycle, and saw another line of police officers rushing toward him from the north. He did not hear an order to disperse, but it was his intention to leave regardless."

About 300-400 people rushed the sidewalk, Ovetz says, and "there was no way for plaintiff to leave the scene without going through the line of advancing officers.

"Plaintiff realized he was in imminent threat of arrest or danger of being trampled. He sought a location to lock up his bike. Before he could do so, an officer (defendant Doe #1) shoved plaintiff into a group of people standing nearby.

"Plaintiff lost his balance and another officer (defendant Doe #2) smacked the right side of his head, hitting his nose and knocking his glasses off.

"By this point, the crowd was panicking as police officers herded them together in close proximity."

Ovetz searched for his glasses with permission from another unidentified officer, he says, but found the frames split in half.

Officers then grabbed Ovetz's bike and "violently pulled him to the ground."

"Defendant Martin and Does 1-10 beat plaintiff with a baton, striking him at least twice. Plaintiff was unarmed," the complaint states.

"Defendant Martin and Does 1-10 grabbed plaintiff by the bicycle helmet he was wearing and slammed him head into the ground, causing his chin to strike the concrete and his teeth to clatter.

"At no point did plaintiff physically or verbally resist his detention and arrest. He complied with all orders he heard."

Ovetz was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer with a deadly weapon - a felony, and misdemeanor charges of failing to leave the scene of a riot and battery of an officer.

A declaration of probable cause, signed by Officer O'Connor, stated: "suspect pushed his bicycle i[n]f[ront]o[f] a mobile field force skirmish line during a protest. Subject then lifted his bike as to throw it at officer, (had recently happened that day to other officer causing harm) ofc [officer] grabbed bicycle mid air and put it in a safe location from protestors. Subject then got in front of officers and began waving his arms and hands in officers faces. Subject ordered to stop. Subject continued. Subject arrested for obstructing and delaying and resisting the officer."

Ovetz was jailed for three days, then taken to Alameda Superior Court and released on his own recognizance.

He says he suffered damages to two teeth and "a large painful bruise in his right abdominal areas as a result of the baton strikes."

He claims Officer Martin failed to use a video recorder to document the arrest because it was "malfunctioning."

"While Officer Martin's own video recorder may have been 'malfunctioning' at the time, his unlawful use of force against plaintiff was captured by private citizens on video, which has been widely viewed on the internet site www.youtube.com," the complaint states.

Last week, a military veteran claimed in court that Oakland police beat him so badly they ruptured his spleen.

"This case is another outrageous chapter in the sullied history of the City of Oakland and its Police Department," Ovetz's complaint states. "It appears the city, and its police leadership are unwilling or unable to respect the constitutional rights of its citizenry."

Ovetz seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, assault and battery, and false arrest and imprisonment.

He is represented by Matthew Siroka.

Defendants include Officer Ercivan Martin, Sgt. Beaver and C. O'Connor (first names unknown).

The complaint does not state what college, if any, Ovetz is affiliated with.

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