More than a dozen people waited in a fourth-floor hallway of Oakland’s Wiley W. Manuel courthouse on Thursday afternoon, waiting for the arraignment of the nine protesters still being held after Tuesday’s eviction of the Occupy Oakland camp and subsequent clashes between police officers and protesters.
A mix of lawyers and Occupy Oakland protesters, there in support of friends who had been arrested, milled around outside Department 107. Some had been waiting since earlier in the morning, having originally been informed that the formal charging of the handful of jailed protesters would take place this morning at 9 am. It was postponed until 2 pm. Then it was delayed once again.
In the courtroom, a couple of people in the gallery chatted quietly. “No talking,” said Commissioner Karen Rodrigue sternly. “If you want to talk, go outside.” One young woman nodded her pink-haired head respectfully.
A group of lawyers then walked purposefully into the room and approached the bench. Bobbie Stein, a San Francisco based attorney working with the National Lawyers Guild, addressed Rodrigue and said many people were waiting specifically for the arraignment of the protesters still in custody from Occupy Oakland.
Rodrigue said the arraignment was not taking place at that time. “So the DA is not charging them now,” repeated Stein. She asked —on behalf of those waiting and worried for their loved ones, she said—about when they might be charged or released.
Rodrigue replied that the group would most likely be taken back to Santa Rita detention center, and that any developments around their release would be “late, late tonight.”
Scott Handleman, an independent lawyer working with the National Lawyers Guild, said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley probably decided not to charge the protesters who are still in custody, which could explain why the arraignment was postponed this morning and again this afternoon.
However Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the Alameda County DA, said her office has not made any charging decisions yet. “We are still reviewing the police reports and evidence,” she said, indicating that those in custody may still be charged.
Arrestees may be released tonight, Handleman said, although police may continue to hold those who had existing warrants for their arrest, prior to Tuesday’s events. He could not say how many of the nine still in custody had previous warrants.
Stein said it is a mystery why, after arresting about 100 people during Tuesday night’s street confrontations, the police decided to hold onto these nine. “We were looking for a unifying factor, but could not find one,” she said. Existing warrants, or lack of identification or permanent address could be possible reasons, Stein ventured.
Felicia Fugate, 23, the pink-haired observer from the courtroom, waited with a couple friends outside of Department 107. She said she was arrested in the predawn Tuesday hours, during the raid on the Oakland encampment, and taken to Santa Rita jail. Then, she said, she was released early Wednesday. She said county officials charged her with loitering or not having identification—she was not sure which—as well as with failure to disperse from the scene of a riot.
“It wasn’t a riot when I was there—we were just linking arms,” Fugate said of Tuesday morning’s eviction and subsequent arrests. “The only way I was going to leave was for them to take me.” She sat cross-legged against the glass window panes, the afternoon sun streaming into the hallway, her black and pink combat boots folded under her legs. “I’m peaceful,” Fugate said. “I don’t believe in fighting.”
She gave this account of her arrest early Tuesday morning: the police officer unlinked her arms from other protesters, she said, then put her hands behind her back and put zip ties around her wrists. She and protesters sang the stormtrooper tune from Star Wars, she said, on their way to the van.
“The cop was nice,” Fugate said. “He didn’t put the zip ties on too tight. He held my arm lightly and walked me over to the line. But some cops were not as nice as my cop.”
She said police officers guided arrestees onto a big transport bus—”there were 30 seats for like, 10 people,” she said. The bus stopped first at one facility, where Fugate said a protester with diabetes was let out for medical attention. The van then continued to Santa Rita jail in Dublin, she said, where the arrested protesters were placed in holding cells as they waited to receive a bracelet: “c” for cite, “k” for keep.
Fugate said she received a “k” bracelet, apparently because she did not provide a permanent address at the time. The officers wrote her down as “transient,” she said, telling her she was a flight risk for court. “Is it a crime to be homeless?” she said she asked the officer, as they walked back to the jail cell.
Fugate described a confusing 24 hours of waiting to find out what would happen. Finally, she said, after they gave her a screening test for tuberculosis and took her address, they released her at 3:30 am Wednesday morning, with a December court date.
Today she was here to see her friend Rocket, who was also arrested on Tuesday morning and was still being held, Fugate said. The arraignment had still not taken place as of 3 pm this afternoon.
Besides the nine still being held and two who posted the $10,000 bail, all of the 100-plus arrestees were released earlier, the attorney Bobbie Stein said, with citations to return to court at a later date. The charges for those set to come back to court were loitering, failure to disperse and some accounts of resisting arrest, Stein said. To her knowledge, she said, more serious charges were not filed against any protesters.
The nine still in police custody will probably be waiting in holding cells until the end of the court day, said Stein, and if no arraignment occurred, would be taken back to Santa Rita jail. Stein said she hoped these individuals would then be processed and released late tonight, but some might continue to be held.
The fact that some protesters are being held for three days is “pretty disturbing,” said Stein. “Everyone should have been released right away.”
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.