Tonight, the OPD, assumably backed by the city, acted with such complete disregard for the law that our immediate action is required in protest. At about 11pm, Sri Louise and I were at the Interfaith Umbrella on Frank Ogawa Plaza, making political signs and keeping an eye on a sweet puppy named Jasmine. Others around us were gathered in small clusters talking, using computers at a new power station someone had rigged up, and eating food some of us brought to share. There were maybe 50 or 60 people total. .It was all so peaceful and beautiful, and then the cry went out: “Riot Police! Watch out!” Sure enough, more than a dozen cruisers had pulled up at high speed and were now disgorging scores of police in riot gear, who immediately began advancing on us with no order to disperse, no warning, and no explanation of what they were doing. One protester, Sven La Rose, stepped forward and began to speak to the police about what they were doing. They had him on the ground in seconds and immediately handcuffed him. Meanwhile, I was nearly taken as I stopped to grab the blankets we had at the umbrella. Several police were advancing on me, forcing me forward and telling me to move or be arrested. Meanwhile, Sri was shouting for help moving a man who was drunk and asleep and who had a dog with him. We did get him up and out of harm’s way, but fourteen of our people were taken in all, including two who actually had left the scene and crossed the street to avoid arrest, and who were arrested by cops who deliberately broke away and went after them as targets. (Both are African American men who have demonstrated leadership in two different areas of the movement.) An attorney then appeared on the scene and offered to go with us to the jail to try to get people out, since they had clearly been arrested without the police following legal procedure. We marched there but were prevented from getting there by a line of police advancing on us and yelling for us to “Get back.” The attorney, Sri, several other witnesses and I then went around the corner to the public entrance to the jail lobby, which we entered. Immediately someone started saying over a PA that we were trespassing and needed to leave or be arrested. Meanwhile, someone opened the opposite door, and a group of protesters entered, and then several dozen sherriff’s deputies came out and told us we had ten seconds to choose one representative and get out. They then advanced on us while counting backward from ten, and we chose the attorney (who was lovely—I will get her name) and stood outside videotaping her through the glass. The deputies told her very aggressively to leave and go to the police station across the street where our people were being held. We did that, but the police station told us they had no holding facilities and that we should go back to the jail. It was a classic run-around consisting of blatant lies to an attorney who was trying to represent clients.
This action tonight is the most serious violation of first amendment rights I have ever seen. It is mind-boggling. We were doing nothing wrong. We were simply present in a public square as part of a movement that is being targeted for repression. We have to respond and respond with clarity of purpose and intent.