Oakland considers suing anarchists for damages

July 12, 2010 6:56:55 PM PDT
Oakland's city attorney is considering suing dozens of people he calls "outside agitators." The troublemakers are already facing criminal charges for damaging and looting businesses in the downtown area following the Johannes Mehserle verdict. Now, the city of Oakland is considering the possibility of holding them civilly liable for the city's costs.

He is trying to get the vandals to pay for what the taxpayers are paying for now. Some of the vandals are with a group calling themselves anarchists. Some of them showed up for the arraignments that took place Monday afternoon.

The group waiting outside Courtroom 112 didn't want to talk, except for one man who only says his name is "Midnight Mad."

He says, "I do identify as an anarchist, yes."

Midnight Mad also says the anarchists came to Oakland to protest Mehserle's involuntary manslaughter verdict and he is angry that a friend is being charged with a felony, when he was serving as a medic.

"We're prepared; we're not new at this," says Midnight Mad.

Police say 75 percent of the arrests from Thursday night's demonstrations are people from outside Oakland. It is unclear how many of them might be self-described anarchists, black-clad demonstrators who cover their faces and stay together in a tight cluster. They are responsible for violence at major demonstrations around the world, including the Vancouver Olympics and the G20 in Toronto. They are anti-capitalism and anti-racism, among other things.

City attorney John Russo wants to find a way to keep them, and others like them, away from Oakland's peaceful demonstrations.

"What we're after are vandals. What we're after are people who, like ghouls, used this human tragedy as an excuse to come here and act out their own human psychodramas," says Russo.

Working with the district attorney, Russo wants to go after the vandals to pay back Oakland taxpayers for the clean-up and he's looking into ways to prevent them from coming into Oakland at all.

"I would defy anyone to explain to me how it furthers the cause of justice for a bunch of Anglos from out of town to come into Oakland and trash a town that is a majority of people of color," says Russo.

Oakland Attorney Dan Siegal came to the arraignments offering pro bono legal advice.

"People who are willing to fight for justice are welcome anywhere in my book," says Siegal.

Russo says he wants to use existing laws to support the civil cases, but he has to do more research to see about a possible stay away order.

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is asking for restitution for the business owners in the criminal cases.


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