National Lawyers Guild pushes back against OPD

Pub date July 15, 2010
WriterAlex Emslie
SectionPolitics Blog

Shortly after filming a protester being arrested by police in riot gear near 12th street and Broadway in Oakland, the Guardian caught up with Dan Siegel, a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild, who had also witnessed the incident. The protester, who is at this time unidentified, was featured on the cover of this week’s San Francisco Bay Guardian, squaring off with an officer in the police line shortly before being arrested.

Siegel described excessively forceful tactics employed by police officers that created more confrontation with protesters than was necessary in the hours of largely peaceful protests that gave way to shattering glass and trashcan fires when the sun went down. The unidentified protester was arrested at least an hour before police declared the assembly to be unlawful and ordered the crowd to disperse.

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has publicly condemned police conduct at the scene of the July 8 protests that turned to riots, and the organization is considering legal action against the Oakland Police Department, according to a news release posted on the guild’s website yesterday.

Carlos Villarreal, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Chapter, told the Guardian that possible legal action against the OPD was in very early stages, but NLG attorneys have met with many of the people who were arrested or otherwise detained or hurt by law enforcement. Villarreal confirmed that NLG attorneys have met with the unidentified protester in the video.

“If someone is in the streets, and they’ve been ordered to disperse, the method to get them to disperse is not to hit them in the head or the back with batons,” Villarreal said. “Law enforcement potentially has a role to play if there are unlawful assemblies that become violent, but it shouldn’t be the kind of involvement that deters people from completely lawful protest and assembly, which I believe by and large was what was going on.”