The Case of the Disappearing Dynamite and Other Stories of the Ongoing Oakland Occupation: Update: Mysteriously Scheduled Hearings

Posted on January 17, 2012

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Stay Away Orders:

At least two Occupiers have, or have been told they will receive, stay away orders from Oscar Grant Plaza. Ironically, these 300 yrd. stay orders given as condition of release on bail for protesters arrested for expressing their freedom of speech rights, also bar them from engaging in city hall, visiting their state and congressional representatives, or even visiting one of the many city agencies found in buildings adjacent to the plaza. The occupiers’ legal representatives are currently looking into amending the orders.

“1/4 stick of dynamite” Charge Mysteriously Disappears at Arraignment:

OPD spokesperson, Johnna Watson, seemed fairly confident she knew what she was talking about when she accused a protester arrested on January 7th’s anti-repression march of carrying explosives. She claimed that OPD had found:

“…the equivalent of a quarter stick of dynamite — not an M-80 firecracker, Watson said, but a 6-inch-long explosive.

“I’d never seen anything like it before,” she said. “That’s not something that’ll blow your thumb off; that’s something that could easily kill you or take a body part off.”

With a weapon like that, you’d think that the city would want that person charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But the “explosive” charge disappeared at the arraignment, though five other felonies were lodged. Either the city has a lax policy toward explosives that will take a “body part off”, or such an explosive never existed. The assertion, later proved to be baseless by the facts, is reminiscent of Watson’s previous claim that both Kayode Ola Foster, the young man shot and killed near the camp in November, and his shooter, were both residents at OGP. Later, once the suspect in the murder was arrested, it became clear that “Neither Foster nor any of the men charged were affiliated with Occupy Oakland.”

At this point, you’d be better off immediately disregarding anything you hear from Watson or read in an OPD press release [or the media accounts of such incidents that are based almost exclusively on the press releases].

Friends of Oakland Resident Call on Occupy Oakland for Support after Brutal OPD Beating and Bogus Charges:

Friends of Elizabeth Yanez have asked Occupy Oakland’s Anti-Repression Committee  to help in publicizing the brutal beating she received at the hands of police, and in finding legal defense for the outrageous five felony charges she faced at her arraignment today. Police claim that Yanez was drinking in public when OPD officers approached her and three female friends; its not yet clear what kind of threat Yanez appeared to present to police officers, who subsequently beat her and arrested her. Yanez is only 19 years old, and works in an insurance office to help her family out financially. This is the first time the Anti-Repression Committee has been approached by a community member for help in fighting violence and abuse of power from the OPD. The kind of police repression that Occupy Oakland has faced is simply a microcosm of the abuse that police visit on residents of the city like Elizabeth out of sight of media and activists.

Update:

Earlier today, an occupier’s court appearance date was shifted; a reality that was only caught in time because people who knew him happened to be in the same court doing hearing support for another set of cases related to Occupy Oakland when they heard his name called. Two charges–that had previously not been processed–were added to the docket, including battery on an officer. Had the occupier not been notified by those in the court room, and if they hadn’t intervened to get the hearing time pushed back a few hours so that his lawyer could contact the DA, three bench warrants would have been issued for failure to appear. It’s possible that there’s some rational explanation for why an extra court date was added, three weeks before the scheduled one, without any notification; but it seems there’s a more likely explanation that gels better with the kind of targeted discriminatory arrest and judicial process that Occupiers have been experiencing over the past month.

Its also important to remember that there’s a colloquial usage of “charges dropped” that even those of us who know better have fallen into. These charges for the most part have not been dropped, in fact; instead, they weren’t pursued at the time of their arraignment, which is a different matter entirely. The DA has a year in which those charges can be brought at any time; so many who’ve been arrested are living under the constant threat of prosecution and arrest while they continue their political activities.