Last night, members of Occupy Oakland gathered at the Grand Lake Theater to discuss the Oakland Police Department’s crowd control policies and their use of force in response to Occupy demonstrations. The meeting was held in place of a similar event that was to be hosted by the Citizen’s Police Review Board, an independent volunteer body comprised of residents of the City of Oakland. Originally scheduled to be held at City Hall, the CPRB event was postponed somewhat last minute.
“The board wanted to ensure the security and safety of all participants," Patrick Caceres, a member of the CPRB told the crowd. "They also wanted to expand the scope of the discussion beyond evictions, because there are other incidents occurring. And to provide a location that people can be allowed to speak, even if they have stay away orders.”
A dozen protesters are currently under stay-away orders that bar them from City Hall. On Wednesday, protester Joseph Briones was arrested for violating the order.
A handful of CPRB members and staff did attend last night’s meeting, and Caceres announced that all key findings and complaints would be presented to the rest of the CPRB at a special follow-up meeting on Thursday, February 16 at City Hall.
Ryan Hunter, Complaint Investigator for the CPRB, also encouraged members of Occupy Oakland to file official complaints with the Board. “That gives us a chance to dig into these things more deeply, to investigate these issues and let us open a formal investigation where we can do things like get police reports, conduct interviews with officers," Hunter said. "We can compel officers with subpoena power to come and give their testimony about what happened at those events. But we can’t do those things if you don’t file a complaint with us.”
The CPRB can also make policy recommendations, but a number of Occupy Oakland members expressed concern that the CPRB, acting merely as a policy advisory committee, would not have much influence over the Oakland Police Department.
Occupy Oakland member Spencer Mills gave the main presentation of the night. Using PowerPoint, he alternated between slides bearing quotations from the Oakland Police Department’s official crowd control policy and videos from Occupy events showing those policies being broken. Those videos will likely be used as evidence in the CPRB’s eight current investigations, and possibly in future investigations as well.
The Oakland Police Department’s voice was markedly absent from last night’s meeting. Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan declined Occupy Oakland’s invitation to lead a question and answer segment.
To end the night, event organizers opened the stage to anyone in the audience who wanted to get up and speak to their personal experience at Occupy Oakland. Many speakers expressed their frustration, fear and, above all, their love for the Occupy Oakland community.