ACLU of Northern California Seeks Answers to Police Attack on Non-Violent Protesters

April 9, 2003 12:00 am

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OAKLAND, CA-The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and representatives from civil rights groups today sent a letter to the chief of police here expressing “extreme concern” over yesterday’s attack by law enforcement officers on non-violent anti-war protesters at the Port of Oakland.

“There is no justification for this kind of police response that resulted in the serious injury of several protesters and innocent bystanders,” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director for the ACLU of Northern California. “Protesters were engaging in non-violent activity when police arrived — not to make arrests but prepared to fire rubber bullets, wooden pellets, and tear gas.”

The letter, addressed to Chief Richard Word of the Oakland Police Department, requests that the department immediately furnish the groups with relevant documents that detail how events transpired during and after the protest.

In the letter, the civil rights groups ask several key questions: “How was the police action developed? What was anticipated? Are officers who ordered the attack going to be disciplined? In these troubled times, what is the Oakland Police department doing to protect the rights of people engaging in protest activity and innocent bystanders?”

Under the California Public Records Act and Oakland Sunshine Ordinance, the civil rights organizations are requesting all police reports, witness statements, general orders and other documents that will help answer these and other questions. Under the requirements of the Sunshine Ordinance the Oakland Police Department must respond by close of business tomorrow.

Representatives from Bay Area Police Watch, People United for a Better Oakland (PUEBLO), National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco Bay Area Chapter), and the Paul Robeson Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California signed the letter.

The letter is online at http://www.aclunc.org/police/030409-oakland.pdf

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