the oakland police

"i see how dirty they rollin'."

mary is telling charlie and i about her 3 a.m. experience of being trapped in an alley by the oakland police. "they just show up, and they say, 'now you got five mitutes,' and then they jes' throw that [the tear gas]."

a berkeley resident who showed up to visit some friends, mary ended up staying at the occupation at oscar grant plaza until 2 or 3 a.m. "i'm just looking" she repeats, indicating she did not participate in any activism. she notes how she was impressed with teachers and lawyers taking care of the homeless.

a 61-year-old small-framed woman, mary sure doesn't look like a threat to the oakland police. yet right as she was leaving, the police surrounded the camp and wouldn't let her go. they gave everyone a five-minute warning, and began to tear-gas them.

this was the raid that inspired the first occupy riot in oakland. the rest is history - tear gas, concussion grenades, scott olsen... these stories are old news to people in the bay.

and mary's experience is not entirely unique. my friend stefanie, an old-guard disabled-rights activist, got tear gassed in her wheelchair. "i was just sitting there and praying," she later told me. "we weren't doing anything illegal, although they declared it an illegal gathering."

i've always been interested in street politics, but stories like these inspired me to see for myself what things were like during a police raid in oakland. yesterday i got a text alert on my phone that the police were about to raid oscar grant plaza. i hopped on the bart to downtown oakland, and this is what i saw:

i arrived in time to see a raucous crowd of about 40, screaming and cursing at five stern looking police officers. a tree-sitter hovered above. at least as many people were hanging around the center of the plaza eating, playing foursquare, smoking cigarettes and chatting with each other.

the word was that people had trickled down here from other occupy locations around oakland that had been raided this week. as a result, the oscar grant protest had once again swelled in size. the 24-hour vigil, the police said, had no permit and had to go - at 2 p.m.

about 2:15, more police came around the back of the plaza and told people to move their belongings and the food stores. the ensuing shouting and refusal provoked six or seven rather violent arrests. but what were the official charges? loitering? disorderly conduct?

a lot of occupiers around here have been getting arrested for "resisting arrest." can someone tell me how that works again?

i was pretty sure that the oakland police weren't acting in anyone's best interest, so i joined the effort to block the police van from leaving the plaza. a soft-spoken police officer shoved me back, and they were on their way.

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