Occupy Oakland: Police Brutality Tab Reaches Nearly $2.9M
The Oakland City Council has tentatively approved a $693,000 settlement for two of the Occupy protesters who say they were beaten and arrested by Oakland police during two separate Occupy demonstrations.
Roughly $645,000 of the payout will go to Afghanistan and Iraq war vet Kayvan Sabeghi, who claims he was beaten by Oakland police officer Frank Uu, who has since retired, on the evening of Nov. 2, 2011. The attack, which lacerated Sabeghi's spleen, was captured on video.
The remaining $48,500 will be paid to Robert Ovetz, a college instructor who says the cops beat and cuffed him during another protest on Jan. 28, 2012.
The City of Oakland recently settled two other lawsuits over the Oakland Police Department's alleged treatment of protesters during Occupy and Oscar Grant rallies, one for $1.17 million and the other for $1.025 million. However, Sabeghi's settlement will be the largest amount paid to an individual protester.
Still, the City of Oakland will likely spend more cash to legally bail out its police department, as several Occupy protesters' cases are wending their way through the courts. Scott Olsen, an Iraq war vet who sustained a skull fracture and brain damage at an Occupy protest on Oct. 25, 2011, filed a lawsuit against the city; his case is scheduled to go to trial in October 2014 -- if it is not settled before then. Another class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 400-plus protesters who were arrested en masse on Jan. 28, 2012, and is still pending.
The Oakland Police Department, which has struggled with crowd control over the last decade, is currently attempting to improve the way it polices protests. The department, which is under a court order to negotiate changes to its crowd-control policy with the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild, updated its rules in light of the many settlements that cost them $1 million earlier this year. The new policy includes changes to the way batons can be used during protests, while adding oversight procedures for the department.
"We're happy with the settlement," Rachel Lederman, a National Lawyers Guild attorney who, along with Dennis Cunningham and Bobbie Stein, represents Sabeghi, told SF Weekly. "I think it was appropriate, given the injury Kayvan sustained. The thing that we're not happy with is that, even though we have an agreement and a federal court order around the crowd-control policy and the ability to enforce that, we're still seeing violations of the policy."
"Hopefully the settlement is a step in the right direction, but it's a conundrum how to change the culture and practices of OPD," Lederman added.
Sabeghi has another lawsuit against Alameda County and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, alleging mistreatment and medical neglect while he was in jail. That case is still underway.
The City Council is scheduled to finalize the settlement during its Jan. 7 meeting.