Councilwomen investigated for role in protests

Councilwomen Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan were among the group of demonstrators who gathered near 14th Street and Broadway Thursday night. (YouTube)

July 14, 2010 4:44:42 PM PDT
Two Oakland City Council members have come under scrutiny in an investigation into the downtown protests that followed the verdict in the Johnannes Meshserle case last week, a police spokesman said today.

Councilwomen Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan were among the group of demonstrators who gathered near 14th Street and Broadway Thursday night after the former BART police officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of Oscar Grant III on Jan. 1, 2009.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered in downtown Oakland that evening, 78 of whom were arrested when the protest turned violent. Anarchists and other rioters smashed windows, looted stores, busted down doors and sprayed graffiti on storefronts.

Police Officer Jeff Thomason said investigators are "looking at pictures, video, and officers' supplemental (reports)" of the protests, and said the number of arrests is likely to rise in the coming days and weeks.

"More arrests will be made, and City Council members are not exempt from this investigation," Thomason said.

Quan and Kaplan are believed to have taken part in a human chain that blocked police from moving up the street during the protests.

Pictures posted on the Facebook page of the Oakland Police Officers' Association show the councilwomen with their arms around the shoulders of other demonstrators in front of police officers in riot gear.

Thomason said obstruction of police officers is the likely charge that could be pursued against additional protesters.

Quan said she was merely playing a peacekeeping role at the protests. She said the investigation into her actions could be more about her roles as chair of the council's budget committee and mayoral candidate running against former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who has been endorsed by the police officers' association.

The City Council voted June 25 to eliminate 80 police officer positions to help close the city's $32.5 million funding gap.

Quan said that at the protest, she "literally stood in front of a line of police officers when people were throwing bottles at them" and was "trying to keep the anarchists away from police" and get hundreds of other peaceful demonstrators off the streets.

"This is all to say I welcome the investigation," Quan said. She said video and accounts from witnesses will show that she was merely acting as a peacekeeper.

"It's interesting that they're criticizing me, but no one mentions the fact that I played a major role in stopping the bottles thrown at them," Quan said.

"Once they called it an illegal assembly, we started moving people out, but slower than they may have wanted, I guess," she said.

Kaplan, also a candidate for mayor in the November election, was not immediately available for comment this morning.


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