Now that many of the arrestees from December 30th have been released, we’re hearing disturbing stories of targeted harassment against Occupy Oakland activists. Occupiers have all shared similar details; they have had the letters OK put on their wristbands, a practice apparently not being done to other detainees. According to several detainees, they were held in a hot, unventilated paddywagon for several hours before being processed—they were not told the charges against them, nor where they were being taken. Once in Santa Rita, they were segregated from general population in a way that mirrors “gang-related” procedures.
There’s also been disturbing stories of psychological and physical abuse—constant jeering and mocking from correctional officers. One of the constant themes has been sleep deprivation, in terms of making noise and turning on lights at all hours, as well as the joke [and possible action] that CO’s would be taking photos during strip search and posting them on the internet. The Occupy Oakland activist known as Shorty, a diabetic, was deprived of his insulin for the entire period of his incarceration, with consequent and possibly dangerous health effects.
Finally, Alex, a young African American man—who was arrested for the now infamous, absurd and offensive crime of “lynching”–was pulled back into possession just as he was being released. According to other activists, correctional officers grew angry at the fact that he seemed happy to be released, and told him that he was being taken back into custody. Alex has other legal issues that complicate his current imprisonment, but the psychological torture involved in this treatment is unacceptable.
Four Occupy Oakland activists remain in jail: Khali, Alex, Truth and Momo for various charges not related to their initial arrest. The system criminalizes people of color, but it also creates immense barriers for their participation in civil disobedience. Notably, no Occupier currently in jail is charged with an act of violence related to their participation in the Occupy movement, though at least one has experienced violence at the hands of correctional officers.