Some claim police used excessive force in Oakland

July 14, 2010 7:10:53 PM PDT
It has been nearly a week after Oakland police confronted demonstrators in the streets of downtown following the verdict of Johannes Mehserle. Some of the demonstrators at last Thursday's protest claim officers used too much force during the demonstrations.

Walter Riley is an Oakland attorney who marched for civil rights in the 60s. He stood Wednesday surrounded by members of the National Lawyers Guild. They came to support his claims of excessive force by law enforcement on the night of the Mehserle verdict.

"I never formed a line in front of a police officer; I was never face to face with a police officer, until this officer in fact choked me," Riley said.

Riley was arrested by a CHP officer.

Susan Harman is a former school principal. She too was demonstrating that night and was arrested by an Oakland police officer.

"[He] hit me on the head with a baton; I still have a lump on the back of my head," she said.

Harman claims she was demonstrating peacefully. Riley said he was just observing the crowd while walking toward his law office on the same street where some were looting a store on Broadway.

"The fact that they busted people playing a positive role on Thursday night is a demonstration of what they wanted, they wanted to provoke violence," Riley said.

Both are considering filing a lawsuit.

While some say they never got the order to disperse, police say there were numerous warnings.

"Once we decided that the level of vandalism and violence that was actually going on was actually a public safety threat, that's when we had to give the unlawful order to disperse; people had plenty of time to leave," Oakland police spokesperson Holly Joshi said.

Police are also investigating anyone who may have interfered with police, including two Oakland City Council members.

Council member Jean Quan defended her actions that night.

"What we did was organize a little line of basically little old ladies like myself trying to keep the demonstrators away from the police and calling out to demonstrators to stop the guys who were throwing the bottles," Quan said.

Fellow council member Rebecca Kaplan was by her side.

"No, I am not blaming them what I'm saying is don't throw things, that's not how we stand for peace," she said in a video taken of the night's protests.

OPD says they have only received one complaint so far and they will Thursday release photos of the people involved in the looting and other criminal activities in hopes that the public will help in identifying them.


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