Last night, in downtown Oakland, police were sent in to forcefully evict protesters sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement from two public parks. Things escalated through the night, as 500 riot police moved in, and protesters refused to leave. The police, in the immediate aftermath, denied using rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades on the crowd, but the evidence seems to indicate that they did both. If I’m not mistaken, you can even hear them whizzing by in this YouTube video.
The young man in this video, who witnesses say was shot in the head by a police projectile, is named Scott Olsen. He’s a 24 year old Iraq war veteran. According to The Guardian, he’s presently in critical condition, with a fractured skull and brain swelling. Olsen, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, is a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Here’s another angle of the same scene, which clearly shows the cops not only not coming forward to help Olsen when it’s clear that he’s been badly injured, but then launching another flash-bang grenade into the group of protesters who come to his aid.
I might be able to excuse the actions of police up to a point, as it’s been documented that some in the crowd of protesters were throwing rocks, but what’s absolutely inexcusable in my eyes, is not coming to this young man’s aid when it’s clear that he’s in desperate need to medical attention. I’m not one to throw around the phrase “police state” willy nilly, but it’s hard to watch the video of these faceless officers, behind their shields and masks, launching flash-bang grenades into a group of people coming to the aid of an injured man, and not feel as though we’ve crossed a line.
As my friend Matt noted, though, we may not be subjected to these kinds of troubling videos for long, as a number of communities are moving to make it illegal to record the actions of police officers. So I guess that’s something to be thankful for, right?
It would certainly make things easier if we only had one side of the story to consider, wouldn’t it… Speaking of which, here’s a clip from the Oakland Police Department’s press release about the incident:
…During the evening protest, a number of officers were assaulted, doused with hazardous materials and hit with large rocks and bottles, which resulted in the declaration of an unlawful assembly and the order to disperse. To assist in the dispersal efforts, officers used less lethal force tactics.
At approximately 10:00pm this evening, a group of approximately 300 protesters in the area of Frank Ogawa Plaza began throwing large rocks and bottles at officers after receiving the order to disperse, which again prompted the use of less than lethal munitions. At the time of this release, there are approximately 200-300 protesters in the area of 14th and Broadway and enforcement efforts are continuing…
It kind of sounds like we should be thanking the cops for showing restraint, doesn’t it? After all, they were doused with hazardous materials and hit with “large” rocks. [note: I would have described these large rocks as boulders, if I'd been writing this.]
There was also a Q&A included in the press release. It included the following.
Question: Did the Police deploy rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades?
Answer: No, the loud noised 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.
And this would have been fine with me, if not for the video above, which clearly shows flash-bang grenades being used, and all of the photos going around the web of what look like projectile injuries.
If this same thing happened in the Middle East, our leaders would have condemned it, but, since it happened here, we’ll just agree to accept the fictional version of events in which the bad hippies were the ones making the explosions and dousing our heroic crime fighters with unnamed “hazardous materials”.