Last year on May Day, a boisterous but mostly peaceful demonstration promoted by Occupy Oakland and other groups, was aggressively attacked by an OPD assault force. There really is no other way to describe the events [I wrote about that day here, and that attack in “Part 2″].
As the march, which had surged around the city center and lake, came back to Oscar Grant Plaza to plug back into the rest of the day’s events at around mid-day, the police suddenly rushed the crowd from behind, causing panic. In the ensuing confusion, the OPD targeted several individuals. As you can see from these photos, they were offensively brutal in the arrests–but in the case of Prince alone, they went the extra step of tazing him. I think that given that he was the only African American arrested that day, its definitely arguable the extra force was racially motivated.
I was in the crowd that day and absolutely no one posed a threat to any police officer. All of the protesters brought to the ground and arrested, were quite literally just standing there, except for one woman, who was rushed from behind and yanked from a bicycle.
Now, nearly a year later, Prince, has been picked up on a warrant for a charge generated by the arrest. Like so many arrested during actions of civil disobedience and protest, the district attorney has stacked charges on top of the initial ones, and failed to notify the accused of their arraignments.
For those like Prince, who already faced multiple charges, it didn’t occur to them that they would have to check in with the district attorney to see if even more charges would be stacked on. Despite the fact that the city and county complain about lack of legal resources and funds, they nevertheless generate extra arraignment hearings; knowing as well that these will likely result in warrants.
This behavior is typical of a DA focused on spectacle prosecutions for the viewing benefit of a law and order constituency. The DA almost never “dropped” charges against protesters, for example, throughout the last year and a half;’ rather they kept the charges open, and in some cases brought the charges months later. Again, this generated warrants, creating potentially dangerous situations for activists, given what we know about the habit of police of shooting first and asking questions later.
The DA”s behavior is even more absurd when considering the fact that the office has still not responded in any way to the recent exoneration of two Oakland residents who were arrested and convicted under the shoddiest and most racist police, judicial practices imaginable; no investigations, no studies, no reports about the fact that OPD and DA actions could produce such startling outcomes as the loss of a combined two decades of freedom for two wrongly accused Oakland citizens. Despite years of complaints and evidence that police and prosecution work are sorely racially biased when they are not incredibly lazy and incompetent, the DA continues on its course, with not a complaint from the City Council nor Mayor.
The DA also lacks the time to do all but the most cursory review of the shooting of Alan Blueford, reviewing police files and interviewing Miguel Masso, but doing no investigation of their own. Satisfied, the DA closed the book on Masso only five months after it was opened.
What does the DA have time for? Politically motivated frivolous prosecutions against activists like that of the “Ice Cream 3′, who were disappeared into the county’s jails on bogus “hate crimes” charges that were eventually dropped. The DA had the time to target Chris Moreland, who committed the crime of embarrassing OPD Chief Howard Jordan with the truth about his violent police force. The DA has time for harassment of political activists who’ve been through the system like ‘Ghetto Prophet’, who spoke loud and proud at a recent Justice for Alan Blueford action, and hours later found himself being arrested on bogus charges. And the DA has time to prosecute activists like Prince–a father to be who nearly a year ago, helped create a farm out of UC-owned mismanagement and blight in Albany. It’s quite clear that one of the county’s overriding motivations is to intimidate activists like these and others. Remarkably, almost every one of these people disappeared into the local justice system–those singled out for extra attention–were people of color, African Americans targeted because of their activism.
The math is simple and striking here. The DA and police want Oakland’s marginalized people to develop an ingrained fear of speaking openly about the city and county’s malfeasance. And they want the natural outcome of that fear to be the ceding of political activism and the public sphere to the socially connected and affluent, so that the mayor and council can always describe uprisings as the work of “unconnected outside agitators”. So that the city’s poorest and most marginalized people will even begin to believe that getting out in the street is something that only rich, white people will do. Something that only white, affluent people can do.
We say no.
One last thing. Despite the fact that it shouldn’t matter by half if Prince were the most unpleasant guy I’d ever come across in my travels, I have to say it’s extremely shocking to see someone like that brutalized and maligned by the police for standing around at a constitutionally protected activity. I worked alongside Prince one morning at the Farm Occupation in Albany converting the ad hoc rickety chicken coop into an ad hoc rickety petting zoo for a bunch of kids. He was one of the warmest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and someone who’s had to overcome some pretty serious obstacles on top of it. The reality that this father-to-be may have to miss his child’s birth because he’s in jail on this bullshit is beyond tolerable.
Here’s a clip of Prince talking about his participation in the great Occupy the Farm action in Albany last year around this time. Its worth listening to, to get an idea of the kind of positive energy and enthusiasm that the DA seeks to silence.
PFblog has more details on the arrest.