Documenting OPD Protocols and the Finer Points of #J28 Police-work

How, as a police officer, should you go about policing an Occupy protest?

It’s not the sort of question I’ve spent much time thinking about, and I’m realizing that’s a mistake. I refer you, therefore, to the OPD Crowd Control and Management Policy Bulletin (via). Of particular note is this portion, which appears on page 6:

“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. Once some members of a crowd become violent, the situation often turns chaotic, and many individuals in the crowd who do not want to participate in the violent or destructive acts may be blocked from leaving the scene because the crowd is so large or because they are afraid they will move into a position of heightened danger.

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.”

Here is a video taken by this person, who happened to live across the street from where OPD tried to kettle the protesters at 19th and Telegraph. I’m posting it because the visibility is amazing. These nighttime skirmishes are hard to follow or understand, especially if your spatial intelligence (like mine), is subnormal.

It’s 13 minutes long, but I recommend watching at least the first 6 minutes if you want to get a comprehensive bird’s-eye view of how OPD is policing these protests.


What’s interesting about this is how OPD manufactures the very condition it’s supposed to avoid: they are blocking people from leaving the scene. They are creating precisely the “position of heightened danger” they’re supposed to be trying to defuse. (Watch the flash bangs and smoke bombs get hurled into the trapped crowd.)

Much has been made of the protesters pushing down the fences here. I didn’t understand the circumstances that led up that until I saw this video. Nor, I imagine, do people fully understand what protesters meant when they clarified, contra the typically dunder-headed news coverage, that when they ran into the YMCA later that night, they weren’t “occupying” it, they were literally running away from the police. The staff inside the YMCA was kind enough to let them in so they could escape through the back exit. Until the police caught on and blocked them in.

Again, this isn’t hearsay; there’s footage. Here’s video of protesters begging YMCA staff to let them in, and video of the police closing in, creating the kettle:


The police blocked everyone in, some 500 people, blocking all exits, then ordered them, absurdly, to “disperse”.

To reiterate: they trapped these people, leaving them nowhere to go. All exits had been blocked—by police.

The crowd started yelling “Let us go! Let us go!”

And there’s evidence: people tweeted as they were getting kettled:

People tweeted from inside the kettle:

Here is what it sounds like to be trapped inside that kettle with hundreds of people–reporter Susie Cagle, who was stuck in the kettle and also arrested (then “unarrested), has audio. Overheard: “This guy might have a broken leg.” And Cagle herself saying “where can we go”? to police.

Here’s what an NYT reporter tweeted while watching the livestream (in real time, obviously):

And here is what reporter Gavin Aronsen of Mother Jones tweeted while actually inside the kettle, where he would eventually be arrested:

Then the police announced this, via megaphone:

Here is audio of that announcement, again via Cagle’s audio, which includes audio of her arrest, and of the officer turning off her recorder after she tells him she’s a journalist.

To reiterate: the police arrested 409 protesters after kettling them in, for failing to disperse after they had made it literally impossible for them to do so.

Now, go back to the excerpt from the OPD training manual I posted above.

Boiled down to the essentials, they are:

1) Recognize that all protesters are not the same.

2) If things get crazy, realize that it’s likely to be a small group, and that many people will want to leave.

3) Those who want to leave might not, either because the crowd is just too big or they’re afraid of heightened danger.

4) Minimize arrests, and do everything possible to avoid arresting innocent people.

  • The OPD did the opposite of #1, arresting 409 people indiscriminately, including members of the press.
  • OPD did not react to “people getting chaotic,” instead, as shown in the video above, their strategy has become producing chaos. By, for instance, suddenly charging a crowd of hundreds of people with batons, flash-bangs and smoke bombs.
  • They did not recognize that whatever provocations there may have been were the actions of a select few, and they actively ignored a chorus of hundreds of people begging to leave.
  • Rather than create a space so that those who wished to leave could do so safely (minimizing the “heightened danger” that might keep people from risking departure), they created the “heightened danger” mentioned in #3. They did this, I reiterate, by beating people with batons, and throwing various smoke-producing and noise-producing devices into the trapped crowd.
  • They issued an order that they themselves made it impossible to obey, then arrested everyone for noncompliance.
  • They did not minimize arrests of innocent people. They maximized them.
  • They arrested several journalists despite being explicitly told that they were press. For a detailed history of how that went down, see this Storify.

This stuff is worth reviewing and documenting with some pedantry because it’s just so terrifically easy to dismiss accounts of what happened in the heat of the moment. Late at night, in front of one building or another, in downtown Oakland. Particularly when those accounts are issued after the fact. We’re a skeptical public, too used to being “related at” by PR wanks. Everyone wears their cynicism on their sleeve, integrity’s dead and everyone’s a liar. Oh, the reader thinks, that protester said she got shoved around? Huh. We might not go so far as to say “She lies!”, but we shove it aside for later, which is the same, these days, as forgetting.

(I’m not praising this tendency, incidentally, but I am noting that it exists, and that it’s radically changing the standards of proof that sway public opinion.)

When there’s video, things are a little different. When people are tweeting in real time, things are different. When a total stranger is filming the events across the street from him, things are different. Those things add up to a much more complicated story, and it becomes more complicated still when we bother to read the rules governing good police-work. That “good police-work” has come to be something of an oxymoron in the mind of many of an Oaklander in no way absolves us from looking seriously at what good police-work should be. In cases like this, looking at the details means we gain the authority to stare back at police claiming we’re breaking laws, whose authority is considerably diminished when they’re so flagrantly violating their own.

The same is true for stories of fences being pushed down, of protesters “storming” the YMCA, of the things many of the 409 arrested protesters were charged with. (One of them is “Failure to leave the scene of a riot.”) All these news bits are so much messier. Even now, 48 hours since their arrest, over 100 people are still stuck in Santa Rita Jail, being “processed.” If the police are taking that long to process people, let’s take the time to process them too.

Sources on the Port Action on December 12

I’m trying to educate myself about the port action, how corporations and unions understand the port of Oakland, how it pertains to the truckers and the city as well as the Occupy movement. I’ll be updating this all day. In the meantime:

    1. Section 717.3 talks about funds and how they’re allocated. Ninth and last on that list is the item concerning how monies could (conceivably, but never practically) return to the City of Oakland: “Ninth: For transfer to the General Fund of the City, to the extent that the Board shall determine that surplus moneys exist in such fund which are not then needed for any of the purposes above stated.”
    2. Surprising (to me—I’m new to city charters) was the conflation of transportation by sea, land, and air, such that hubs for all three fall under the Board of the Port of Oakland’s jurisdiction:

Section 717 (1). All Port facilities, airport facilities and terminal facilities of any kind or character are hereby consolidated and shall be operated as a single project by the Board in the interest of transportation by land, by sea and by air, it being hereby found and determined that transportation facilities of all classes implement and augment each other to such an extent that the same must in the public interest be operated singly and under one central supervision and control. Wherever in this Charter the terms “port”, “project”, or “facilities” are used, the same shall include all facilities under the jurisdiction of the Board, irrespective of whether the same shall be port or airport facilities or other real or personal property or equipment of the Port and related improvements, structures or facilities.

  1. Section 726 explains that the Board’s power includes the ability to apply terms, conditions and limits to federal uses of the port and its surroundings:

Section 726. Without denial or disparagement of other powers now held by or that may hereafter be given to the City of Oakland or its legislative bodies under or by the Constitution or the laws of the State of California, the City Council and Board of Port Commissioners are hereby authorized and empowered to grant and convey all or any portion of or interest in the tidelands and submerged lands located in the Middle Harbor area of the City, lying between the Estuary of San Antonio and Seventh Street, and westward of Bay Street extended southerly, to the United States of America for public and governmental (including military or naval) purposes, subject to such terms, conditions, and reservations, if any, as the Council and Board shall deem proper.

      • A thorough and extremely useful overview of the tensions surrounding the port action–thanks to Evan Rohar and Eduardo Soriano-Castillo at Labor Notes (via @AhabLives).
      • Emily Loftis’ article for Salon on how Occupy is redemocratizing labor, and how the unions are caught in an uncomfortable place between occupiers and the Democratic Party. This piece is not without its problems; see the comments for why.
      • ILWU International President Robert McEllrath’s letter rejecting Occupy solidarity—and asking that Occupiers not mention the dispute with EGT as a reason for the port occupation. Raises the neverending (and, to my mind, insoluble) question of what “solidarity” means, particularly when it’s unwanted.
      • Gavin Aronsen’s article for Mother Jones on the scope of the projected shutdown and the complicated question of union involvement.
      • A summary of the conflict between ILWU and EGT at Labor Notes: “EGT Development, a consortium of three companies, wants to operate its new $200 million grain terminal in Longview using non-ILWU labor, despite a contract with the port requiring it to do so. When the ILWU protested, the company signed up with an Operating Engineers local.” (This story is illustrated with a photo of ILWU International President Robert McEllrath being detained by police.)

In a series of protests since July, ILWU members and supporters sat down on train tracks and occupied the new terminal, resulting in 100 arrests. As picketing continued, no trains had attempted to bring in grain shipments since July. But last week a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order at the request of the National Labor Relations Board, which said ILWU pickets had harassed EGT workers.

    • An open letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports–especially important, since the truckers are the most vulnerable members of this whole mess, and probably suffered the greatest (proportionate) economic hardship as a result of both the port action and of the lack of a union:

Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

    • Steve Stallone at Counterpunch outlines the history of this kind of action, particularly as it pertains to the ILWU. He characterizes the Occupy movement as picking up on a long ILWU, and explains the goals of the shutdown:

This time the Occupiers are doing it to highlight the nasty anti-union tactics of a major international food and grain conglomerate, Export Grain Terminal (EGT), whose majority owner, Bunge Ltd. is a multi-national company busting unions from Texas to Bulgaria to Argentina and is also deeply involved with corporate takeover of food systems, displacing local agriculture with soybean monoculture. EGT is trying to break the labor standards and jurisdiction of the ILWU by bringing in scabs to load their grain ships at the Port of Longview.

In Southern California, at the huge port complex of Los Angeles/Long Beach, the Occupy blockades are adding another political target. They will focus on the terminal of one of the worst offenders of the 1% on the Coast—Stevedoring Services of America (SSA)—to highlight the plight of the port truckers. These “independent contractors,” mostly immigrant workers who haul the shipped containers to warehouses and other points of destination, have been trying to organize into the Teamsters for over a decade so they could bargain and raise their pathetic pay.

December 12th Shutdown of the Port of Oakland in Photos

Working on a piece on Dec. 12 for the Occupy Gazette. In the meantime, here are a lot of photos of the morning at the port.

This is a map of the route protesters took to the Port of Oakland:

They started around 5:30 a.m. at the red star on this map (close to the West Oakland BART station) and marched all the way (roughly) to the blue star on the far left. Middle Harbor Shoreline Park connected to the two sets of berths that the protesters took up: 30-32 and 55-57.

A group of bikers went on ahead earlier. The pedestrians marched behind them, with the police bringing up the rear. Here’s what that looked like, from the point of view of the marchers, in the eerie early morning:


The crowd split in two–some went to berths 55-57, others went to 30-32. The futuristic looking white building is behind the gates at berths 30-32. Slowly the sun rises, the truckers line up, the police line up, and various events happen which I will elaborate on when time permits. In the meantime, here are some images, which I hope do something to capture the wild solitary weirdness of the Port of Oakland, even when it’s “occupied.”



UC Berkeley Department of Mathematics Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau

The full text can be found here, with all 61 signatories.

“We, the undersigned members of the Department of Mathematics at UC Berkeley, strongly condemn the actions of the UC Berkeley and Alameda County police forces on Wednesday, November 9. It is our assessment that officers in those forces attacked students who were plainly not engaged in violent activity. We maintain that the use of violence against peaceful protesters is not justified. Therefore, we ask that Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, on behalf of the University community, rescind his message of November 10 condoning the conduct of the police. We call upon the Chancellor to take all necessary steps to ensure that the campus police never again attack unarmed students engaged in peaceful protest.”


In Which UC Davis Physics Faculty Call for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation.

Via The original, as a .pdf, is here.

Chancellor Linda Katehi November 22, 2011
UC Davis

Dear Chancellor Katehi:

With a heavy heart and substantial deliberation, we the undersigned faculty of
the UC Davis physics department send you this letter expressing our lack of
confidence in your leadership and calling for your prompt resignation in the wake
of the outrageous, unnecessary, and brutal pepper spraying episode on campus
Friday, Nov. 18

The reasons for this are as follows.

• The demonstrations were nonviolent, and the student encampments
posed no threat to the university community. The outcomes of sending in
police in Oakland, Berkeley, New York City, Portland, and Seattle should
have led you to exhaust all other options before resorting to police action.

• Authorizing force after a single day of encampments constitutes a gross
violation of the UC Davis principles of community, especially the
commitment to civility: “We affirm the right of freedom of expression within
our community and affirm our commitment to the highest standards of
civility and decency towards all.”

• Your response in the aftermath of these incidents has failed to restore
trust in your leadership in the university community.

We have appreciated your leadership during these difficult times on working to
maintain and enhance excellence at UC Davis. However, this incident and the
inadequacy of your response to it has already irreparably damaged the image of
UC Davis and caused the faculty, students, parents, and alumni of UC Davis to
lose confidence in your leadership. At this point we feel that the best thing that
you can do for this university is to take full responsibility and resign immediately.

Our campus community deserves a fresh start.

Andreas Albrecht
Marusa Bradac
Steve Carlip
Hsin-Chia Cheng
Maxwell Chertok
John Conway
Daniel Cox
James P. Crutchfield
Glen Erickson
Chris Fassnacht
Daniel Ferenc
Ching Fong
Giulia Galli
Nemanja Kaloper
Joe Kiskis
Lloyd Knox
Dick Lander
Lori Lubin
Markus Luty
Michael Mulhearn
David Pellett
Wendell Potter
Sergey Savrasov
Richard Scalettar
Robert Svoboda
John TerningMani Tripathi
David Webb
David Wittman
Dong Yu
Gergely Zimanyi

The Chancellor’s Statement On How “Professionally” Police Dealt With Protesters Was Written The Day Before the Protest

I have to preface this by saying I feel like an idiot for spending all that time “detecting” duplicity in the Chancellor’s and the President’s letters to us, when they were gleefully admitting to it all along in their e-mails. Then again, I guess it’s good to have proof.

Via reclaimuc comes this selection from a California Public Records Request which revealed a 300+ page pdf of email correspondence between UC Berkeley deans, chancellors, public relations officers, cops on how to stop the building occupations in Fall 2009.

What follows appears on p. 243. It’s an account of that Friday’s arrests, written in its entirety on Thursday, the day before anything had happened. With a note: “We will need UCPD to fill in the blanks asap Friday morning.”

Chancellor Birgeneau replies, asking that the protesters not be referred to as “activists” because that gives them “gravitas,” and requests that a quote from him be added expressing his admiration for the professional way in which the police removed the illegal protesters.


This says everything we need to know about the good faith with which the administration has been operating.

From: Janet Gilmore []
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 6:45
To: Claire Holmes
Cc:,,, Margo Bennett
Subject: Draft Wheeler brief for web

Take a look, change as needed and please get to California Hall OK, as needed. We will need UCPD to fill in the blanks asap Friday morning.


University of California, Berkeley, police arrested xxx trespassing student activists and other protesters this morning (Friday, Dec. 11), hours before the group was set to hold an unauthorized concert inside a classroom building.

According to UC police, xxx individuals were arrested and cited for XXXXXX at XXX {time} this morning {XXX and taken to XXXX jail/Or cited and released!}. The group included xxx students and xxx individuals not affiliated with UC Berkeley.

The activists, who have been protesting against student fee increases and other issues, had maintained an illegal though largely nondisruptive 24-hour presence inside Wheeler Hall since Monday.

However, by week’s end the group began announcing plans for an unauthorized concert featuring guest artists and a DJ — an event that threatened to disrupt final examinations scheduled to take place in that same building on Saturday.

Campus staff spoke with the organizers about the issue, but the activists vowed to go forward. Their publicity materials stated that the concert would begin Friday night and would end “8 a.m. Saturday” and until “the cops kick in the doors.” Final examinations are set to begin inside Wheeler Hall at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“Once the activists refused to reconsider plans to hold an unauthorized all-night concert in an academic building we had to take steps to ensure that finals could go forward,” said Dan Mogulof, campus spokesman. “Our primary responsibility is to the campus’s core academic mission and the 35,000 students who are not participating in the activists’ efforts.”

Campus police are currently monitoring access to Wheeler Hall to ensure that only authorized faculty and staff are allowed in. Classroom review sessions that were scheduled to take place inside Wheeler today will instead take place in XXXXX and as indicated on fliers posted outside of XXXX.

Wheeler Hall is one of the campus’s largest classroom buildings and is open for campus business daily until 10 p.m. The trespassing group, which ranged from a dozen to several dozen at any given time this week, were not authorized to hold events inside the building; nor to sleep in the building overnight. Police cautioned activists every night this week — including Thursday night — that they were subject to arrest and student conduct code sanctions for their actions.

The activists entered Wheeler Hall on Monday and since then had set up information tables inside the building, stashed food and refreshments, posted banners, strummed guitars, played late-night music and declared the building an “open university.” Early in the week they appeared to be taking steps to ensure that their activities would not conflict with classroom review sessions underway inside the building.

p. 245

From: Robert J. Birgeneau
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:59 PM
To: ‘Claire Holmes’; Beata Fitzpatrick’; George Breslauer’; ‘Phyllis Hoffman’
Cc: ‘Janet Gilmore’
Subject: RE: DRAFT text for Wheeler story

Hi Claire,
I agree with the basic message. However, we need to find a new word other than “activists” to describe the protesters; that descriptor gives them too much gravitas. I prefer: intruders, occupiers, and/or protesters. Also, assuming that everything goes according to plan, I would like a quote expressing my admiration for the very professional way in which the police managed to apprehend and remove the illegal occupiers.


UPDATE: And again thanks to reclaimuc, here is how the statement actually appeared the next day. Some differences between the draft above and the statement as it ran are as follows, as noted by reclaimuc (who you should really follow—reclaimuc—because they broke this story over a year ago):

  1. the word “activist” is completely removed as per birgeneau’s request;
  2. they added a quote for birgeneau in which he praises the police;
  3. they removed the only sentence talking about what the “activists” were protesting about (tuition increases, etc);
  4. I’m struck by how they manufacture quotes. e.g. mogulof’s quote had the word “activist” and they changed it to “group.”