Did Oakland Police Illegally Jail Demonstrators Protesting Mehserle Sentencing?
Hundreds of heavily armed police from at least seven different Bay Area law enforcement agencies swarmed through downtown Oakland and the Eastlake neighborhood Friday night. “The police surrounded the demonstrators, trapping and arresting numerous people who were doing nothing but protesting the unjust sentence, including one of our legal observers,” explained NLG Executive Director Carlos Villarreal. “There has been a lot of media attention on a few incidents of property damage Friday night, but like we saw on July 8, the police action actually focused on shutting down the lawful political demonstration.”
Law enforcement agencies cost Oakland $1.2 million dollars on July 8, 2010, when a similar convergence of police agencies flooded the streets of Oakland in response to largely peaceful protests. November 5’s police actions were likely comparable, if not more expensive.
“To add insult to injury, the arrestees were booked into jail and held for 18 hours and more, even though California law requires that persons like these demonstrators, almost all of whom were arrested for minor offenses, be released immediately with a citation. We’ve been receiving many reports of arrestees being abused and subjected to unconstitutional conditions inside the jail,” Villarreal said.
The Oakland Tribune is reporting 152 arrests for “disturbing the peace” and “unlawful assembly”:
The group intended to march to the Fruitvale BART station, where Mehserle shot Grant on Jan. 1, 2009. But they were met by a line of police in riot gear near Fifth Avenue. Police began inching toward protesters, pushing them toward officers lined up on Sixth Avenue. About 8 p.m., police announced that the gathering was an unlawful assembly and that anyone inside would be arrested.
Police said 152 arrests were made by the end of the night. Most of the arrests were for disturbing the peace and unlawful assembly.
“We bent over backwards” to allow for a peaceful protest, but some people chose to march through the city and tear it up, Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts said. Rocks and bottles were thrown at officers; fences were ripped down.
Batts said that usually after police declare unlawful assembly, they give people time to leave the area. He said, however, that police were not going to allow a repeat of what happened in July after the verdict was read.