Crowd control at Oakland protests: A visual explainer

Oakland Policy Policy Intro Slide

Click on the slide above to start slideshow. Use arrows on sides to move between slides.

As the Occupy Oakland protests continued this winter, so did confrontations between Oakland Police Department officers and protesters. In the most recent incident, which happened on January 28 after Occupy Oakland supporters attempted to take over the Kaiser Convention Center in order to transform it into a social center, over 400 protesters were arrested, many after police encircled marchers and did not allow them a clearly indicated avenue to disperse.

That incident, coupled with recent public forums at which marchers aired allegations of mistreatment by police, has raised questions about whether the OPD was adhering to its crowd control policy, a document last updated in 2005. The Citizen’s Police Review Board is currently organizing another forum to discuss the police response to Occupy Oakland.

The following is a visual exploration of the set of policies–both the OPD’s crowd control policy as well as other city regulations and sections of the California Penal Code–that are supposed to guide how police and protesters interact. Information contained in the Revised Crowd Control Policy for OPD was used as source material for all of the following slides; citations for additional sources is cited after each slide.


Slide 1, a look into OPD crowd control policy

Sources used for this slide:

Revised Crowd Control Policy for OPD — Used for all slides
Oakland Agreement Reached on Crowd Control TacticsSan Francisco Chronicle, November 6, 2004
The BUMP Squad: Wanna Run Over a Protester? Join the Oakland Police DepartmentSan Francisco Bay Guardian, July 9, 2003


Slide explaining police shouldn't cover their badges during protests.

OPD Officer John Hargraves was suspended for 30 days for covering his name badge during an October 25 incident involving Occupy Oakland. His superior office, Lt. Clifford Wong, was demoted for failing to properly report the incident. The incident was caught on video by a person at the march. The video was used to discipline the officers.

Sources used for this slide:

“Each officer shall wear a badge, nameplate, or other device on the outside of his or her uniform or on his or her helmet which bears the identification number or the name of the officer.”
— OPD Crowd Control Policy, Section III (C3)

Two Officers Disciplined for Occupy MisconductThe Bay Citizen, January 10, 2012
Video of Incident involving both officers.


Slide explaining police policy calls for differentiating protesters.

Sources used for this slide:

“OPD officers shall avoid negative verbal engagement with members of the crowd. Verbal abuse against officers shall not constitute a reason for an arrest or for any use of force
against such individuals.”

“Department personnel must maintain professional demeanor and remain neutral in word and deed despite unlawful or anti-social behavior on the part of crowd members. Unprofessional police behavior can inflame a tense situation and make control efforts more difficult and dangerous.”
— OPD Crowd Control Policy, Section VIII (C7,8,9)

“Over last two weeks, 40 arrests, and rising tensions between city officials and Occupy protesters” Oakland North, January 6, 2012
Occupy Oakland march against police brutality ends peacefully,” Oakland North, October 30, 2011.
Occupy Oakland General Assembly debates violent ‘Black Bloc’ tactics,” Oakland North, November 10, 2011.
Protesters clash with police throughout evening as tear gas fills the air,” Oakland North, October 26, 2011.”Occupy Oakland: the Tuesday night confrontations, in photos,” Oakland North, October 26, 2011.
Fuck the Police, Long Live the CommuneBay of Rage, January 11, 2012

Slide explaining police policy calls for not displaying weapons until dispersal order is given.

Sources used for this slide:

“Officers in non-violent crowd situations shall not display weapons before a dispersal order is given or other enforcement action is implemented.”
— OPD Crowd Control Policy, Section III (C10)


Slide explaining that policy calls for police to recognize that all demonstrators are not the same.

Sources used for this slide:

“It is essential to recognize that all members of a crowd of demonstrators are not the same.”

“Even when some members of a crowd engage in violence or destruction of property, other members of the crowd are not participating in those acts.”

“This understanding does not mean OPD cannot take enforcement action against the crowd as permitted under this policy, but OPD shall seek to minimize the risk that force and arrests may be directed at innocent persons.”
— OPD Crowd Control Policy, Section VIII (C6)

As night falls, protesters shut down Port of OaklandOakland North, November 2, 2011
In front of downtown banks, some protesters smash windows while others urge peace,” Oakland North, November 2, 2011.
After midnight, confrontation erupts between police and protestersOakland North, November 3, 2012
Occupy Oakland General Assembly debates violent ‘Black Bloc’ tactics,” Oakland North, November 10, 2011.
Protesters clash with police throughout evening as tear gas fills the air,” Oakland North, October 26, 2011.


Oakland Police Department Declares an Unlawful Assembly.

Sources used for this slide:

“In the event of a declared unlawful assembly, it is the general policy of the OPD to use multiple simultaneous arrests to deal with a non-violent demonstration that fails to disperse and voluntarily submits to arrest as a form of political protest rather that dispersing the demonstrators by using weapons or force beyond that necessary to make the arrests.”
— OPD Crowd Control Policy, Section V (A)

California Penal Code 407: Unlawful AssemblyCalifornia Penal Code
Occupy Oakland protesters march through Oakland after chaotic day of evictions, arrests,” Oakland North, October 25, 2011.
OPD evict Occupy Oakland protesters,” Oakland North, October 25, 2011.


What happens when Oakland Police declare an unlawful assembly?

 


Typically, protesters are supposed to get certain permits to take over street or use sound amplification in Oakland.

Sources used for this slide:

Oakland Permits” City of Oakland
Occupy Oakland clergy and supporters protest beach umbrella citation” Oakland North, December 20, 2011

 


Although rare, some Occupy Oakland protesters have vandalized property in Oakland.

Sources used for this slide:

“The permissible tactics to disperse or control a non-compliant crowd include all of the following (not in any specific order of use). The use of these crowd dispersal tactics shall be consistent with the Department policy of using the minimal police intervention needed to address a crowd management or control issue.”
— OPD Crowd Control Policy, Section V (H)

“In front of downtown banks, some protesters smash windows while others urge peace” Oakland North, November 2, 2011
Community art collective condemns Occupy Oakland-related vandalism,” Oakland North, November 9, 2011.
Occupy Oakland General Assembly debates violent ‘Black Bloc’ tactics,” Oakland North, November 10, 2011.
Occupy Oakland: Black Bloc in Context” Russia Today, February 10, 2012


Oakland Police, after an unlawful assembly is declared, have numerous ways to disperse a crowd.


One tactic Oakland Police use is to have so many police present that it intimidates people, and they leave as a result.


Encirclement, or kettling, is a tactic Oakland Police use to arrest many people at once.

Sources used for this slide:

How I Got Arrested At Occupy OaklandEast Bay Express, February 1, 2012
Arrests, tear gas as Occupy Oakland protesters attempt to seize a buildingOakland North, January 29, 2012
Journalists arrested at Saturday Occupy Oakland protest,” Oakland North, January 31, 2012.
Journalists—Myself Included—Swept Up in Mass Arrest at Occupy OaklandMother Jones, January 29, 2012
Mass arrest attempted at 19th St. in Oakland #J28Youtube
Video of YMCA KettleYou Tube


Sometimes, Oakland Police will use their batons to push protesters out of an area.

Sources used for this slide:

Video of OPD officers Using Batons #j28 You Tube
Second War Veteran Assaulted by PoliceKTVU via You Tube


At worst, Oakland Police will use tear gas and projectiles to force protesters to leave, usually causing a riotous situation.

Sources used for this slide:

Video of Scott Olsen from Oct. 25You Tube
Videographer Scott Campbell Shot By PoliceYou Tube
Battle of Oak StreetYou Tube
Arrests, tear gas as Occupy Oakland protesters attempt to seize a building,” Oakland North, January 28, 2012.
Raw footage: flash grenades and tear gas in downtown Oakland Wednesday night,” Oakland North, November 3, 2011.
After midnight, confrontation erupts between police and protesters,” Oakland North, November 3, 2011.
Legal groups demand details on use of force, gas in Tuesday’s Occupy Oakland protests,” Oakland North, October 28, 2011.
Occupy Oakland: the Tuesday night confrontations, in photos,” Oakland North, October 26, 2011.
Protesters clash with police throughout evening as tear gas fills the air,” Oakland North, October 26, 2011.
Occupy Oakland protesters march through Oakland after chaotic day of evictions, arrests,” Oakland North, October 25, 2011.

You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here. 

3 Comments

  1. Rockridge Advocate

    While the dramatization with graphics is useful, it seems filled with errors and opinions which are not facts. Specifically:

    1. Every Occupy Oakland protest event has included violence. Every single one. And because as long as the organizers refuse to exclude those who specifically advocate violence, it will continue to happen.
    2. The law does in fact allow the police to declare an unlawful assembly when a group stages an event without a permit. The whole point of a permit is to have someone accountable for the gathering and its impacts and security requirements. The lack of a permit can be cause for a dispersal order.
    3. All property destruction is violent. There is no such thing as non-violent property destruction. Sitting on a sidewalk with linked arms is not property destruction. Smashing store windows, throwing bricks at people, and throwing trash cans onto cars are violent and are property destruction.

    If my group protesting cuts to education decided to start an assembly at 14th and Broadway, and wanted to march down Broadway without a permit, you can bet we’d be stopped and dispersed and cited immediately. The Occupy protests do not exist in some separate world where there are different rules. Perhaps this presentation should be revised.

    • John C. Osborn Post author

      Hi Rockridge Advocate!

      In making this graphic, the goal was not to focus on how one group of demonstrators act when protesting, or how frequently certain behavior is exhibited. We looked up the regulations and law that govern how all demonstrators and police are required to act in these situations, and showed examples of where those laws and regulations may have been violated during the many Occupy Oakland protests specifically; it is by no means a comprehensive list.

      On your second point, you are correct. As stated in the slides, if a group of demonstrators are acting illegally, police may declare an unlawful assembly. That does include blocking public throughways and having unpermitted mass gatherings, as that is technically breaking the law.

      If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

      Cheers~

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