EXCLUSIVE: Man severely hurt in 2011 Oakland protest weighs in on current clashes between protesters, police

Friday, June 12, 2020
EXCLUSIVE: Man severely hurt in 2011 Oakland protest weighs in on current clashes between protesters, police
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Marine veteran Scott Olsen, who served two tours in Iraq, and suffered an extreme head injury from a police projectile during a 2011 Occupy protest in Oakland, is now weighing in on current tensions between police and protesters.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's an incident that shocked the Bay Area and the nation in October 2011 -- A young protester, a Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq, severely injured after being hit in the head by a police projectile, a lead-filled bean bag, during an Occupy protest in Oakland.

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Scott Olsen had a fractured skull and was put into a medically-induced coma before being released from the hospital weeks later.

Today, Olsen is a 32-year-old farmer in Wisconsin, but his thoughts are not far from what happened to him nine years ago in Oakland, especially as he watches what's happening now between police and protesters across the country.

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"I'm still living with some of the permanent affects of that brain injury," said Olsen via Zoom. "Especially the last few weeks. Police are using these munitions, whether it be these bean bag rounds, rubber bullets, tear gas, a whole wide range of things that are called less-lethal munitions. And they use them as if they don't cause any harm."

In 2014, Olsen won a $4.5 million dollar settlement from the City of Oakland over police use of force.

"I think we really made a mistake in allowing them to retain any of those weapons in their arsenal at all and that they need to be flatly prohibited from even bringing them to a crowd event," said Rachel Lederman, who represented Olsen in the federal lawsuit.

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Today, Olsen is far away from the Bay Area, living on his farm, where he keeps bees and tends chickens.

But he will forever live with that night in Oakland.

He also wonders, even worries, if he could've done more to protect all the protesters that came after him.

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"Makes me feel like I've let some people down," said Olsen. "That I couldn't have used my position a few years ago with this case to push harder for changes. I'm frustrated, angry and hopeful all at the same time. I'm frustrated and angry to see the police still using this violence, but I'm hopeful we can come out with a better solution."

According to Oakland Police, since Occupy, the department has significantly changed its training and policies, eliminating the use of certain projectiles, including the type of bean bag that injured Olsen.