By Luke Thomas
October 27, 2011
Of the several agencies involved in policing Tuesday’s Occupy protest in Oakland, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department was the only agency to allow its deputies to use explosive tear gas canisters, a Fog City Journal inquiry has revealed.
Alameda County is the designated mutual aid coordinator for the Bay Area region and called in reinforcements from San Francisco and Santa Clara counties to assist the Oakland Police Department in controlling a peaceful protest turned restive following the early Tuesday morning raid and dismantling of Occupy Oakland, a tent city erected two weeks ago outside Oakland City Hall in solidarity with the broader Occupy Wall Street movement.
“We brought plenty of CS (tear gas) canisters,” confirmed Alameda County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson J. D. Nelson. “But they didn’t have a flash bang.”
San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Troy Smith said their riot control units were specifically instructed not to bring tear gas, rubber bullets or other crowd control projectiles to the protest.
The revelation may help to shed light on the agency responsible for discharging multiple tear gas canisters during the protest, one of which was lobbed at a group of protesters rendering assistance to injured Iraq War Veteran Scott Olsen.
As Olsen, 24, lay unconscious after being struck in the head by an unknown projectile at the intersection of 14th and Broadway streets, several protesters attempted to carry Olsen safely away from the eye-burning tear gas. But before the protesters could lift Olsen, an officer wearing what appears to be a black sheriff’s department uniform, stepped back from a police barricade and lobbed an incendiary tear gas canister directly at the protesters and Olsen.
Nelson confirmed Alameda County sheriff uniforms are black but he said footage shot by KTVU is not conclusive in determining which officer and agency was responsible for lobbing the device.
“I don’t believe that’s our uniform,” he said, adding that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department insignia is “more round.”
Olsen’s bloodied image has become a potent symbol of the Occupy Wall Street movement while the use of tear gas and other riot control devices by police against the protesters has been widely condemned.
Political fallout from the heavy-handed police action has forced Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who is facing threats of a recall, to reverse course and allow Occupy Oakland to return to Frank Ogawa Plaza and rebuild their community.
In a statement released today, Quan said an investigation has been launched into the police use of force. “It was not what anyone hoped for,” she said. “Ultimately it was my responsibility, and I apologize for what happened.”