A video posted to Youtube on Saturday shows a man struck by a less-lethal projectile while videotaping a line of police at Frank Ogawa Plaza during an Occupy Oakland demonstration gone awry last week. The videographer, Scott Campbell, said in an email interview that he had moved to Ogawa Plaza after police from Oakland and other agencies had dispersed a crowd gathered at a foreclosed building that had been occupied earlier Wednesday night following Oakland’s day-long General Strike.
Campbell said he began filming the line of police around 12:50 AM, after the dispersal order was given outside the Traveler’s Aid Society but before fires were set and windows broken along Broadway that night.
“There was nothing going on in that area, everything was calm and I thought it would good to document the police presence. That’s what I was doing when I was shot,” Campbell wrote.
In the video, Campbell can be heard asking police “is this OK?,” presumably in reference to his distance from the police line and whether or not he can film the officers in riot gear. As Campbell walks down the skirmish line, 33 seconds into the clip an officer can be seen leveled some sort of firearm at Campbell and firing on him. Campbell is not sure whether he was struck with a beanbag or another sort of projectile.
Though the insignia of the officers on the line is not visible, at the beginning of Campbell’s video one officer can be seen holding what appears to be a shotgun. The Oakland Police Department uses 870 Remington shotguns to fire beanbag projectiles in crowd control situation.
OPD, the City Administrator, and the Mayor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment by Monday morning.
The incident raises questions about OPD’s approach to people engaged in First Amendment activity during protests, including reporters. During the November 2nd disturbances, reporter Susie Cagle was arrested, jailed and charged with failure to disperse despite having self-made press credentials in plain view.
According to OPD’s crowd control policy, members of the media “shall be permitted to carry out their professional duties in any area where arrests are being made unless their presence would unduly interfere with the enforcement action.”
Furthermore, OPD’s crowd control policy outlines clear criteria for when munitions such as beanbags may be used against a crowd:
“Direct Fired SIM may be used against a specific individual who is engaging in conduct that poses an immediate threat of loss of life or serious bodily injury to himself or her- self, officers, or the general public or who is engaging in substantial destruction of prop- erty which creates an imminent risk to the lives or safety of other persons. In such instances, Direct Fired SIM shall be used only when other means of arrest are unsafe and when the individual can be targeted without endangering other crowd members or bystanders (See Special Order No. 8135 enacted April 15, 2004.).”
It is difficult to see how Scott Campbell’s actions fell into the above category. We will update this story when a response is available from Oakland authorities.