Occupy Oakland Upset Over Proposed Shield Ban
|Does this look threatening to you?|
The Council's public safety committee is mulling an ordinance that, if passed, would ban protesters from carrying shields during any and all demonstrations. The ordinance, backed by City Attorney Barbara Parker and Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, says those shields that are commonly used in Occupy protests are "tools of violence" and protesters spotted carrying one can be arrested.
The cost of carrying these shields would amount to a misdemeanor charge, a $1,000 fine, and up to six months in jail. Along with shields, protesters wouldn't be able to carry hammers or paint balloons, which, as readers probably recall, Occupiers love to hurl at police during demonstrations.
But this ban could be a problem, considering how Occupiers are very fond of their shields; they can be seen regularly carrying them at demonstrations and they even brought one to the Tuesday night meeting, claiming they need them for protection against "violent police."
The Oakland Police Department has been hit with a slew of Occupy-related misconduct complaints, and saw a national backlash after video footage of police attacking Iraq veterans Scott Olsen and Kayvan Sabeghi went viral.
Parker argues that some demonstrators "have used protests in Oakland as 'cover' to commit acts of violence" and that the proposed ordinance might finally put a cap on this illegal activity. She and Kernighan hope that police will happily arrest anyone carrying the so-called "tools of violence" before the protesters actually have a chance to use them.
Although shields are typically considered a defensive tool, Kernighan says they appear more threatening, claiming "it looks like people are armed for battle."
"I don't think that's what a protest march should be about," she said.
Protesters, including Jessica Hollie used the public comment period during the meeting to tell the committee exactly how they felt about this potential ban. "I don't care if you think a protest should look like that or not." Hollie stated that the council should be ashamed for trying to pass legislation that she deemed "fear-mongering." She then announced her own plans to run for City Council -- just to piss them off.
"I don't really want to win because I don't have any faith in electoral politics," Hollie explained, "but if I do win, I promise I will ride your ass."
The good news for protesters is that this proposal, which is modeled on similar legislation in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, didn't even make it for a vote. The meeting ended because of the interruptions.
However, we have no doubt that we'll see this proposal back on the agenda for a vote sometime soon. And if it does make it to the full council for review, we're curious to see a debate on whether this City Council believes Occupiers or police are a greater threat to public safety.
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