The surveillance of the Oscar Grant protests over the past two years extended beyond Oakland and San Francisco to Southern California, according to another set of internal Oakland Police documents and communications.
Intelligence bulletins and departmental emails indicate extensive communication between Oakland Police, officials in Los Angeles, and Northern California’s “fusion center,” an intelligence agency where Homeland Security and local law enforcement gather and share information.
Last month, the Informant revealed the involvement of federal and state law enforcement agencies in policing the July 8th protests that following Johannes Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction for the January 1, 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant on the Fruitvale BART platform.
Mehserle’s trial was moved to Los Angeles in 2009 after defense attorney Michael Rains convinced a judge that the former BART officer could not receive a fair trial in the Bay Area. Oscar Grant’s family and his supporters joined up with Southern California activists to stage public demonstrations outside the Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles. Throughout the proceedings, the atmosphere in and outside Judge Robert Perry’s courtroom was tense: Judge Perry ejected an Grant supporter for a verbal outburst, and there were scuffles outside the building in the days before the July 8th verdict.
Oakland Police were kept up to speed on events in Los Angeles through bulletins forwarded to them by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the local fusion center. Furthermore, information about a planned July 6th protest in front of the Los Angeles courthouse where Mehserle’s trial took place was forwarded to OPD by Ronald Wakabayashi, the Los Angeles regional director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service.
Emails show that Assistant Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan communicated frequently with Sergeant Rick Lucas from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which has responsibility for LA County’s jails and courtrooms. Sgt. Lucas reported back to Jordan after demonstrations, as the emails indicate, and made efforts to identify individuals in the crowd for intelligence purposes.
On June 15th, Sgt. Lucas wrote Jordan about a courthouse demonstration the previous day:
“Yesterday, June 14, was a scheduled protest regarding the Mehersle trial. There were approximately 150 demonstrators in front of the building. Although they were loud, they were peaceful. I talked to one of the apparent organizers before the event started and explained the rules for picketing in front of the building. Although he refused to give me his name, he was cooperative and agreed to keep his folks in line. Almost everyone I talked to from the group was from the Southern California area.”
According to OPD emails, the LA Sheriff’s Department also assisted with training for the Grant protests.
The degree of law enforcement attention on the Oscar Grant protests has precedence. Homeland Security has monitored a number of civil protests in the decade following September 11. The Sacramento-based California Terrorist Information Center (aka CATIC) tracked anti-war demonstrations in Santa Barbara and Walnut Creek – even though U.S. Representative George Miller spoke at the Walnut Creek rally.
CATIC also played a role in the police riot at a 2003 antiwar demonstration outside the Port of Oakland. When protesters did not respond fast enough to a dispersal order issued by the Oakland Police Department, tactical teams fired tear gas and nonlethal projectiles at the crowd. A number of people were injured in the ensuing mayhem, and a subsequent lawsuit resulted in $1.25 million in settlements and an overhaul of OPD’s crowd control policy.