Experts question shooting of Occupy Oakland filmer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Mayor Jean Quan has renewed her appeal to Occupy Oakland representatives to meet with city officials and discuss the future of the growing encampment of protesters outside City Hall. Her latest overture comes as dueling video evidence was released by Oakland authorities and by a man who experts say appears to be the victim of excessive police force.
The month-old protest camp in a public plaza downtown has grown to about 180 tents. The mayor on Tuesday echoed concerns of business leaders, saying the tent city is hurting commerce — and, she added, straining an already stretched city budget. Officials day Occupy Oakland-related events though the end of October have cost the city slightly more than $1 million, mostly for police overtime.
"This situation is costing us real jobs," the mayor said in a statement. "We can't afford to lose a single job."
Earlier in the day, the Oakland Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/rQfuLG), Scott Campbell said police shot him with a rubber bullet or beanbag while he was videotaping a standoff between authorities and demonstrators following a "general strike" last week. Experts in police use of force say it appears the volley that hit Campbell was unprovoked and inappropriate.
In the video, Campbell, 30, is heard calling, "Is this OK?" to a line of riot gear-clad officers. He told the newspaper that he was asking if his distance from them was adequate because an officer had asked him to step back. A firearm held by an officer then is seen going off, followed by Campbell's yelps of pain.
The Oakland Police Department also has been criticized for wounding an Iraq War veteran during an Oct. 25 skirmish. City spokeswoman Karen Boyd said Tuesday that anyone who thinks they witnessed improper police conduct is encouraged to make a report with the police department's Internal Affairs division or Oakland's Civilian Police Review Board.
University of South Carolina criminal justice professor Geoffrey Alpert said that unless something occurred off-camera to provoke the officer, the shooting was "one of the most outrageous uses of a firearm" he'd ever seen.
"Unless there's a threat that you can't see in the video, that just looks like absolute punishment, which is the worst type of excessive force," Alpert said.
Campbell, who identifies himself as an anarchist, said he took video of the confrontation that occurred early Nov. 3 because he wanted to document any instances of excessive force, but did not imagine that he would be a target.
Authorities have said they moved to arrest more than 100 people and used tear gas and beanbags after a small group of self-proclaimed anarchists entered a vacant building with bottles and flares and then lit fires in the street when officers tried to clear the building.
Officer Johanna Watson, a department spokeswoman, said Campbell's allegations already are being looked into.
Meanwhile, police released four videos of their own, these showing scores of protesters harassing officers before authorities used tear gas to disperse the crowd during the Oct. 25 confrontations that came hours after the temporary dismantling of the disputed encampment. The clips show hostile protesters surrounding police and throwing paint at them during a protest march through downtown. Police later fired tear gas and bean bags at the protesters, leading to several skirmishes that lasted into the wee hours.
"The images contained in this release are only a portion of what was captured," Oakland police said in a release. "There are many hours of footage still being reviewed. ... The officers were subjected to numerous assaults by the crowd throughout the incident."
The Oct. 25 clashes came hours after an early morning police raid of the Occupy encampment. Quan allowed protesters to re-establish to their camp following the night of violence.
That move has prompted criticism. Last week, Joseph Haraburda, president of Oakland's Chamber of Commerce, publicly blamed the city for three deals falling through. Haraburda said the plans collapsed after Quan allowed protesters back into the area. He said his chamber holds Quan "responsible for a peaceful and successful resolution."
One protester, Jesse Smith, 32, who spoke with the mayor last week after a special City Council meeting, reiterated Tuesday that he and a few others in the movement are willing to meet with Quan despite Occupy Oakland's overall stance.
Last week, demonstrators passed out fliers opposing meeting with city officials that read, "We Will Not Negotiate!" The back of the flier stated that the city's special meeting "is an obvious attempt to capture and redirect our energy — into their chambers, on their terms and within the confines of their bureaucratic process. They are afraid."
Smith said Quan's appeals will likely be discussed during the protesters "General Assembly" on Wednesday. Protesters say they expect attempts from City Hall representatives to address the crowd.
Quan, as she has done repeatedly, also asked concerned individuals and organizations to reach out directly to protesters.
She expressed a desire for any future demonstrations associated with the anti-Wall Street movement to remain peaceful and said the protesters should help single out violent demonstrators.
"Oakland has demonstrated its support for the 99 percent," Quan said. "Now is the time for the encampment to show its support for Oakland."
Associated Press writer Lisa Leff contributed to this report.