Oakland Police Crack Down on Protests


The OPD has accumulated a bad reputation because of its aggressive reactions to the Occupy Wall Street protests. Its violent behavior towards protesters has created conflict throughout the country.

Lauren Dahlberg-Seeth

The Oakland Police Department has officially joined Occupy Wall Street’s hate list along with the 1 percent. It seems the OPD has taken the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them” and inverted it: if you can’t join them, beat them up. Between injured war veterans and unwarranted teargas firings, the department’s response to these protests has been controversial to say the least.

Police brutality has become a significant issue in Oakland, and there are countless videos, pictures, and eyewitness accounts from Occupy protests that can attest to this. Over the course of the movement, the OPD has been seen using batons to beat fallen protesters, firing lead projectiles onto groups of people, throwing teargas canisters and flash grenades directly into crowds of protesters, and performing countless unwarranted arrests. The list goes on and on. By firing teargas, rubber bullets and flash grenades onto peaceful protesters without significant warning, police officers were not only being unnecessarily aggressive, but more importantly were in violation of police policy.

The presence of police brutality at this day and age is unprecedented. After reading horror stories in our history books of fire hoses and vicious police dogs being used to disperse protesters in the 1960s, it seems that not much has changed in the decades since.

Many point fingers at Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for being behind the heavy-handed and highly violent response.However, she denies involvement with many of the violent police raids and has recently launched an investigation on police conduct.

Although brutality is clearly an issue in the OPD and its response to the Occupy movement has been far from acceptable, the police are also somewhat justified in their forceful action. One must remember that it is the job of the police to protect the security and well-being of the people, and thus they have not only the right but the duty to intervene if a situation is unsafe.

In an area like Oakland that is notorious for widespread crime and violence, it seems irrational for police not to step in when a protest has the potential to become violent. The fact of the matter is that Oakland’s historical reputation of violence cannot be disregarded, and it is better for the police to be safe than sorry.In many instances, the police response is justified. Most of the OPD’s efforts have been to disband the Occupy Oakland encampment, which is in fact in violation of the law.

Mayor Quan has stated that she is in full support of the Occupy movement and even welcomes protests from the 99 percent. However, the encampments violate city laws, deter customers from many local businesses, and present countless safety risks. And let’s face it. If someone’s presence were costing you an estimated $2.4 million—a price tag that includes police and security, cleanup and remediation, and effects on business—you’d want them to leave too.  The Occupy encampment has had a costly toll on the city of Oakland’s community.

While the Oakland Police Department should patrol and actively maintain order throughout the Occupy Wall Street protests, they cannot use violence. Police brutality is a slippery slope that we cannot afford to fall down.

We need to work to end our country’s history of violence and make sure that in the years to come, the right of protesters to assemble peacefully is protected. Otherwise,  the cycle will continue. There will still be a misuse of power in our country’s police forces and unrelenting protesters that refuse to yield to this brutality.