According to official city expense figures quoted by the ACLU, Oakland paid $1.04 million to the OPD, $1.09 million to city personnel, $500,000 to other police agencies in the form of "mutual aid," and $540,000 to VMA Security for a "30-day contract." The cost of "policing" would appear to far outweigh the city's costs for any "clean-ups" or "property damage."
A 'Conflict of Interest' in Conflict
Although it is seldom
mentioned, it is a fundamental fact that the police have a "conflict of
interest in conflict." As long as there is money to be made in police
overtime, there will be a temptation to provoke situations that require overtime.
And it's not just the local police that benefit from staring down and/or beating down
protesters. In early November, when the OPD stormed through downtown streets
amid a blizzard of tear-gas, Oakland's finest were backed up by at least 15
other police agencies including the California Highway Patrol, Alameda Country
Sheriffs, and officers from police departments in Hayward, Berkeley and Gilroy
(located about 75 miles south of Oakland).
The same mutual-aid situation prevailed at UC
Berkeley and UC Davis (where, in both cases, local campus cops were reinforced
by Berkeley City police). It's a situation straight out of the old Buffalo
Springfield song: "What a field-day for the heat. A thousand people in the
Troubling Signs of an Emerging National Police State
The nearly simultaneous timing
of the police sweeps that cracked down on Occupy encampments across the nation
suggested a level of national coordination. The paranoia turned out to be well
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (who
initially told the media that she had no knowledge of the coming police
crackdown against people camped out in Frank Ogawa Plaza because she had been
out of town) subsequently revealed during a BBC interview that she had been one
of 18 big-city mayors who participated in a nationwide conference call to
discuss how to handle the tent camps. London Guardian journalist Naomi Wolf reported that the conference call
was initiated by representatives of the Department of Homeland Security who
offered suggestions on "how to suppress" the Occupy protests. Susan
Piper, Special Assistant to Mayor Quan, disputes this charge.
"Our system of
government prohibits the creation of a federalized police force, and forbids
federal or militarized involvement in municipal peacekeeping," notes Guardian reporter Naomi Wolf. Wolf
herself was subjected to arrest after leaving a social event with her husband
and walking down a Manhattan sidewalk during an Occupy protest. (A YouTube
video shows Wolf, resplendent in an evening gown, being handcuffed and hustled
But Wolf was lucky.
According to The New York Times,
during a subsequent crackdown on peaceful protesters, NYPD's finest thugs
"arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground " reporters and
photographers" trying to document the police violence. Reporters were
ordered to raise their hands, threatened with detention, roughed up and
arrested after being warned that in New York, "the greatest city in the
world," it was no longer legal "to take pictures on the
The NYPD did such a thorough
job that their beating victims included a state Supreme Court justice and a New
York City councilmember. Not to be outdone, police enforcers in Berkeley
managed to bludgeon Poet Laureate Robert Hass while grabbing a university
professor by the hair and throwing her to the ground.
How Police Used UC Berkeley to Practice for Attack on Occupy Oakland
UC Berkeley Chancellor
Richard Birgeneau was rightly targeted for a vote of censure by his own faculty
after police viciously attacked students and teachers with truncheons on the
steps of Sproul Hall -- the historic Mecca of Free Speech. But Birgeneau's
complicity in police violence went even deeper.
It was bad enough that
Birgeneau responded to a 2009 student occupation of Wheeler Hall by allowing
outside police agencies to invade the campus armed with batons, tear-gas
canisters and rifles equipped to fire "bean-bag" bullets. It was
inexcusable that the "investigation" of police abuses from that event
failed to prevent the latest violence. But Birgeneau's most egregious crime has
not yet been widely addressed.
According to a remarkable
article by Max Blumenthal (reposted online by Berkeley's Tikkun magazine), in October, Birgeneau
invited the notorious Alameda Country Sheriff's Department and other police
agencies onto the UC campus to hold a "mutual response" military
training exercise in preparation for the November assault on the tent camps of
In Blumenthal's words, the
little-publicized exercise -- dubbed "Urban Shield 2011" --
"turned parts of the campus" into an urban battlefield." Following
November's violent crackdown on Occupy Oakland's tent city in Frank Ogawa
Plaza, Police Magazine reported that
"law enforcement agencies" credited the Urban Shield's campus
rehearsal for the "effective teamwork" that characterized their
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