This morning there was a raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment.
As I wrote just this weekend, the authorities will use alleged examples of protester on cop violence to convince the media and public that these encampments need to be shut down. Public officials will repeat even unconfirmed reports of protester on cop violence in order to create the impression that the protesters are a bunch of rock-throwing thugs that justify police wearing full riot gear to disperse the crowd.
The suggestion of protester violence gets picked up and used by the city officials.
“We’ve been trying (to talk) with the Occupy Oakland people for the last two weeks,” Quan said. “Last week it was pretty clear that there was escalating violence. (SF Chronicle Demian Bulwa,Henry K. Lee,)
Here is an example from the Oakland Tribune above where the Oakland Police Department makes a statement to the media and is accepted at face value.
One police officer said that during the plaza camp shutdown, protesters threw several objects at police, including bottles, skillets, other kitchen utensils and rocks. They also “threw plates at us like Frisbees,” the officer said. Police confirmed that protesters had set off a fire extinguisher — mistaken at first for a smoke bomb — and several M-180 and M-1000 firecrackers, low-level explosives they used to try to confuse or deter oncoming police. (Kristin J. Bender and Sean Maher, Oakland Tribune)
I wasn’t at the dispersal. If I was I would ask the unnamed police officer a few questions:
1. Who threw that first rock, skillet, bottle?
2. Do you have video footage of these alleged protesters on cops violence?
3. I have video footage of the same event showing it didn’t happen as you described, would you care to see it and then recast your characterization?
4. Do you have the alleged throwers’ identities? If not, why not? Were they arrested? Can I talk to the accused skillet throwers? If they weren’t arrested, why not?
5. Is it possible that an agent provocateur or undercover cop was behind the alleged throwing?
6. Does the Oakland police department (and its supporting agencies) have undercover operatives embedded in the encampment? Would you even tell us if there were?)
7. If you have the identity of the alleged skillet throwers, do you know their motivation for throwing rocks? (An undercover cop and agent provocateur starting violence makes a big difference to how the movement is perceived by the public, and what steps are acceptable for police to take.)
Personally I’d love to see footage of someone throwing of kitchen utensils. What something was really thrown? Sporks? Spoons? Plates as Frisbees? Maybe they were using Frisbees as plates! Of course the veiled suggestion is knives.
The media will be fed the story that the protesters are “getting violent” even with no actual footage or footage of the exact opposite. Today’s Bay Area TV news casts will all follow the lead of the print reports and run with undocumented protester on cop violence. I wish I could get to reporters and producers to remember to be skeptical of police reports.
Should police statements be taken as truth? What if there is opposing video evidence? Like the instant reply in football, opposing video evidence to the contrary of what the authorities say should be a game changer in this era of video phones.
The media fall into their roles of getting “both sides”, but if you have a leaderless group on one side, who speaks for them? Will video footage do? Who you going to believe, a cop or some live video footage? How do you get the footage to the media when you can’t just hold a press conference and they all come running?
Want to Help #occupyoakland From Home?
For #occupyoakland supporters at home who want to help, follow the methods of Charlie Grapski.
1. Scour all the footage and photos you can find of the instigators of the violence at the protest.
2. Look for video footage at the same time the cops said people were throwing things. If you find some that conclusively shows them throwing things, next.(You might also be able to identify egregious police abuse.)
3. Crowd-source the images and ask for help identifying them.
4. If you can identify the throwers, track them. See if they were arrested. (We know the trick of undercover cops getting arrested to make it look like they are part of the movement) Ask to see who was booked for violence and see if you can talk to them after they are released.
5. Write a post about it on a blog with info on the person(s) and their background.
6. Contact the media and point out who that protest was started by.
The media love to cover conflict stories like this raid. They don’t have the time to do the kind of research that might disprove their easy “the protesters are getting violent” narrative. We can.