On Sunday, while Occupy Oakland prepared for a mass day of action protesting the prison/industrial complex, Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley published a torrent of disinformation in the form of an Op-Ed in the SF Chronicle. O’Malley’s obvious intention was to justify the city’s use of constitution-violating “stay away orders” from city government, city hall, and city offices and Frank Ogawa Plaza.
From beginning to end, the piece is the kind of distortion that Oakland has become accustomed to seeing from a city government that fears nothing more than having its own gross incompetence, violence and corruption revealed. In this case, especially, it’s quite clear that DA, and the mayor’s office and police that have requested stay-aways, fear that the implications will be obvious: Oaklanders who engaged in a form of speech that the city finds distasteful can lose their political rights. To that end, the goal seems to make Occupiers look like a crew of zombies from “28 Days Later” running rough-shod through downtown. There are so many distortions in this piece that it bears considering them one at a time:
1: “They vandalized the YMCA…” The YMCA was not vandalized, nor was any property destroyed there.
2: “ Oakland protesters posted an online call to action for a Feb. 4 protest, declaring their intent to fight with the police …” Declaration is a pretty clearly defined term meaning to make a statement with manifest and obvious meaning. No such declaration appears in that Facebook announcement.
3: “My office has requested that judges impose stay-away orders on many of the violent protesters and, in 14 cases, the courts have imposed orders to stay away from Frank Ogawa Plaza and other Oakland locations where protests turned violent or vandalism occurred.” Protesters have not been convicted of violent offenses, there has been no evidence yet presented that they’ve engaged in violence. For a DA to write something so inflammatory is a staggering breach of ethics.
4: “The decision to seek a stay-away order is not entered into lightly.” The first stay away orders were given in early January for charges such as obstruction and resisting arrest. People were arrested for standing on the sidewalk, quite literally. Moreover, the area in the stay-away orders that have actually been served is ludicrously exaggerated—a 300 yd stay-away does far more than keep an Occupy Oakland member from voicing their freedom of speech rights in the plaza. It bars them from the same chambers where the Citizens Police Review Board meetings are held; it bars them from visiting their state and federal representatives. It even bars them from using 12th street BART station. Where does this 300 yards area end? How is someone burdened with such a carelessly defined no-go zone know where it’s safe to eat a sandwich or have a drink in downtown? In fact, many, if not most, of those receiving stay-aways have not actually been served with their stay-away order, and have no exact idea of how large the stay-away area really is.
There are dozens of configurations in which someone with average intelligence could define the stay-away area that is not so absurdly restricting to political rights or so amorphously likely to cause the individual to violate the order. The parameters of the stay away were obviously created with an extreme lack of foresight or regard to practical implementation.
5: “… stay-away order benefits defendants by allowing the court to release them on their own recognizance without having to sacrifice the interests of the community.” Few, if any, people were released on their own recognizance with stay aways. Most were required to meet bail—in some cases, inappropriately high bails.
6: “Let me be clear: These individuals were not rallying on behalf of Occupy Wall Street, or even the greater Occupy Oakland movement. Rather, they advertise themselves as “militant, anti-government, anti-police, and anarchists,” with a mission to destroy the community fabric of Oakland through the use of violence.” Another incredible inflammatory statement, made with no evidence, nor regard to the fact that the people that have received stay away orders run a gamut of ideologies and beliefs. I know from personal knowledge that most are not “anarchists”, and are actually supporters of so-called “non-violent” activism–indeed, and ironically, several of them vehemently opposed the attempted Kaiser occupation. I’ve never heard, nor seen any of them state their intention of “destroying the community fabric through the use of violence” anywhere. The level of malicious dishonesty here by the highest legal official in the county should frighten every resident of Alameda County.
7: “The city of Oakland is constantly asked to do more with dwindling resources.” Schools, libraries, police and other vital services face seemingly never-ending budget cuts.” In fact, OPD’s budget was scheduled for an increase of around 2 million dollars for fiscal year 2012-2013; even the abolition of redevelopment funds from the state did nothing to reduce this amount. The city has paid 6 million dollars since 2003 for the luxury of monitoring a crime-ridden and truly violent police force that cannot seem to do its job without killing, beating and violating civil and constitutional rights.
This year, Oakland is spending nearly two million dollars on the private corporation that carries out this monitoring function—the same amount of money it sought to save by closing down two schools in October. Two days after O’Malley’s Op-Ed appeared, another 100,000 dollars was added to this heap; considering the OPD’s addiction to overtime and weaponry, these funds will most likely come from community liaison activities. The only truth in O’Malley’s statement is that schools and libraries really have suffered cuts so that the city could continue its addict-like binge on its precious police force.
One last note on O’Malley. As KALW’s Ali Winston noted in late November 2010, O’Malley’s office suddenly stopped honoring public information requests for “findings letters” of officer involved shootings. Finding letters are the report issued by the DA to explain why no criminal investigation will be undertaken of a police officer involved in a shooting.