Thursday, February 16, 2012

Repression and Responsibility in Oakland

Prayer Flags, Protesters and Police
I attended a workshop about legal issues that activists in the Occupy movement, specifically Occupy Oakland, are facing. It was eye-opening to say the least. I found out the DNA samples were taken from some of the 400 protesters arrested on January 28th, "Oakland Move-In Day."

The FBI and Homeland Security are directing a large part of the repression at this point. The specter of Grand Juries being impaneled looms as well.

The violations committed against those arrested are many and range from people being kept in handcuffs for many hours, imprisonment of 25 people in a cell designed for 2 where there was not room enough to sit. Denial of medications and refusal to allow use of bathrooms, denial of attorney visits were the norm. Many folks were detained all weekend on bogus charges that will never come to court except, hopefully, as a class-action suit. It is essential to remember that all these "police procedures" were used against people who had committed no crimes and were simply exercising their first amendment right to free speech.

One 27 year old man who threw light, wind-born seedpods in the direction of the police is being held on eight felony charges. His bail has been set at $400,000. The seedpods never reached the cops due to their lack of weight. His mother describes the action as equivalent of to trying to "throw popcorn."

At this workshop the importance of responsible Internet posting was also stressed. Some photos and videos have already been used to identify people for "questioning" even though they were not engaged in illegal activities, and to arrest those that were. The posting of photos and videos should be confined to exposing illegal police activity. Everything else can be kept as a historical record to be shared at a later date.

It is also imperative that all blogging and writing that is posted on the web not incriminate anyone or expose inside information that could jeopardize the safety of others.

I have been through many political battles but, in the one we are waging now, it is literally true that the whole world is watching. Those of us both chronicling and participating have an ethical responsibility to "do no harm" with the new tools that the technological revolution has afforded us.