In the aftermath of the mass arrests of Occupy Oakland protesters– and whoever else happened to be on the wrong street at the wrong time– on Jan. 28 in Oakland, there have been loads of reports and rumors about brutality inflicted on those arrested. Most of those arrested were held in Santa Rita jail.
I spent 20 hours in jail, and I saw some cruel treatment. I saw people suffering after being denied medication. I saw people with allergies to the food that was provided refused any substitute and unable to eat, sometimes for more than 24 hours. I saw people crammed into holding cells meant for groups a third their size, so that some people had to remain standing, sometimes for more than 24 hours. As many arrestees were wearing clothing coated in tear gas and pepper spray, those chemicals continued to waft through cells and affect all present.
I have reports directly from sources of arrested occupiers being beat up in jail with police batons. At least 20 people were zip tied, meaning their hands were cuffed behind their backs– and more often than not, if they happen to be cuffed too tightly and their hands go numb and even blue, police won’t loosen them– for more than eight hours. I know that some people who were denied access to a restroom ended up sitting in their own vomit and urine for at least four hours in some cases.
UPDATE Another report from someone who was released Monday night:
“I was held for 53 hours for a misdemeanor charge which every single person here, and there, knows will never be brought, and indeed which will be met with a class action suit for wrongful arrest that the city of Oakland will be compelled to settle. I have a perforated peptic ulcer. Early on in the stay I requested non—prescription care — liquid antacid, which the jail keeps on hand — when I began to have an ulcer attack, which is to say, when I began to bleed internally. I was not given such care until an attorney was able to intervene by phone many hours later. I received one capful, which was mildly effective for about three hours. Further requests were ignored. As many will know, a bleeding ulcer attack is both painful and potentially fatal….Food was often not provided for periods of up to 14 hours. For a long period I shared a cell with 27 other people; it was about ten by ten feet. For a period I was in a cell labeled “Maximum Occupancy: Two.” There were ten of us, three very sick. We stood. One of the people slumped over on the toilet, that being the alternative to standing.”
“Three people I know were denied medication for HIV infections while being held for multiple days, which is a life-threatening choice made by the county”
“two women were denied anti-depressants that they had with them when they went to jail”
Daily Kos quotes an anonymous source who reports that “prisoners from the Oakland Commune were being denied medications (some had seizures) while the guards said they didn’t care if they died. Some people were brutally beaten. The put tear gas in the vents of my cell twice.” According to Occupy Oakland media spokesperson Omar Yassin, a report that someone was tear gassed in the jail’s hallway is likely credible.
Then there’s the people who were injured during the protests Jan. 28. Also according to Yassin:
At least a dozen people had welts on their faces or bodies from being beaten by clubs or shot with rubber bullets. One woman was shot in both arms with rubber bullet; one man was shot in the face with rubber bullets while holding a video camera to document the events. Several protesters were shoved to the ground and received wounds on their faces while being arrested. Police raised their rubber-bullet rifles to the faces of protesters throughout the day, threatening attacks– a rubber bullet to the face can cause brain damage and blindness.
A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department refused to comment, although she did say that they’ve “been bombarded with calls about this all day.” Shocker.
UPDATE According to Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Sergeant JD Nelson, no complaints of mistreatment at Santa Rita have been filed.
Nelson said that peanut butter was made available to vegans those allergic to meat, in direct contrast to what I witnessed in jail.
In response to reports that some detainees were held on buses in the Santa Rita parking lot for up to eight hours, during which time they were refused bathroom access and in some cases made to sit in their own urine and vomit, Nelson said that “Generally when they come to the jail the buses are unloaded fairly quickly. Obviously some people are going to go first, some last.”
He told me that detainees were denied medication because “We do we allow them to take their medication in jail. People will try to smuggle stuff in.”
When asked about reported beating in jail, Nelson replied, “I haven’t gotten any reports of any skirmishes between officers and those arrested. We would report it if there was any use of force,”
According to Nelson, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has video footage of all of the areas in the jail where arrestees were held, and, unless there was a lawsuit preventing its release, he would make the footage available to me soon. For now he said, “I don’t even know if they’ve been developed.” (Is this 1984? Not in the Orwellian sense. In the technology sense.)
More on this soon. Send me information that you have, firstname.lastname@example.org