Occupy Oakland Flash and Bang

There’s been a lot of talk lately of the Occupy Oakland action that’s gone on over the past week (part of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement). The most talked about is this video that shows an injured protestor, a group of people who go to help him, and a police officer who allegedly tossed a riot-control flash-bang grenade into the group. Then we see the condition of the protestor who was on the ground.

Flash-bang grenades, while generally considered non-lethal, have been known to lead to sever injury and, in some cases death. They’re usually used in room clearing. According to initial statements from the Oakland police department, neither grenades nor rubber bullets were used as crowd control measures. (They did say that some bean bag rounds were used, even those are questionable in their non-lethalness.)

If you haven’t seen it, watch it here:

In this case, I’m willing to give the initial injury the benefit of the doubt. Things happen when tear gas canisters fly. I’m even willing to accept that there may have been a distinct need for tear gas and other measures to be used.

What I will not accept is the flash-bang grenade lobbed directly into the middle of a group of people who were gathering to help someone who was obviously in distress, and had been for at least a short while. A short while with police officers standing just yards away, doing nothing to help him.

The video speaks pretty clearly to that part of the situation, so that is where my personal complaint sits.

Police action is always a consequence to keep in mind when protesting. Being arrested and all the other dangers that go along with cops asserting themselves as authority are part and parcel of the risks involved in speaking our mind, Constitutionally protected or not.

In most cases, it’s a gray area, as there have been many, many laws put on the books to prevent mass gatherings without proper planning and permits. Most land is private property (seriously limiting the public spaces that actually fall under Constitutional protection). It’s sad that it’s that way, but it is.

Generally, the OWS protest stuff I’ve seen talked about, in video clips, and heard about from people who were there first hand (including people I trust and respect), has been peaceful and as non-confrontational as possible, with protesters trying as hard as possible to obey as many laws as possible (or as many laws as they are aware of). Many have been polite as possible even when breaking laws (especially ones they weren’t aware of). Very little of what I’ve seen, from the side of the protesters, has warranted any serious police response.

Most police response I’ve seen has also been sensible. But there are a handful of cases, like this one, that need to be looked at, talked about, and, when all is said and done, acted upon by the proper courts in order to properly determine the guilt or innocence of the officers who acted in ways unbecoming of someone sworn to protect the public trust and uphold the law. If found wanting, they need to be punished as anyone would be for similar illegal, harmful action. More than just a few days without pay or a few vacation days lost.

Sadly, that doesn’t happen all that often. It’s more likely that, if anything is ever actually done, it will amount to a slap on the wrist, a short (possibly non-paid) vacation, before they’re back on the street.

It appears (based on the Huffington Post article linked above) that the first reaction of the OPD public relations person was to blame it on M80 firecrackers being thrown by the protesters.

I don’t buy that at all.

About Kier

I've been on the web since about 1994. I have a background in a lot of things, including a five year stint as a journalist and over a decade of helping people get their message out to the world.

I write on a number of subjects--everything from relationships to personal development to politics and every day life. I hope you get something worthwhile out of it.

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