East Bay News

Judge approves million-dollar settlement for Oakland protesters

Monday, June 24, 2013

A federal judge has given his preliminary approval to a million dollar settlement in a class action lawsuit brought by protesters arrested by Oakland police during an Oscar Grant demonstration.

Normally protesters arrested for non-violent offenses would be cited and released, sometimes right at the scene, but that did not happen the night of Nov. 5, 2010.

"I was surprised just because I felt like we weren't doing anything wrong. We were just marching down the streets," said protestor Xochil Frausto on Nov. 5th.

At the time, Frausto she and the others were demonstrating peacefully when police took them into custody during the mass arrest. It turns out police may have violated her rights.

"When one of ours is murdered, they protect the murderers," said one speaker at a rally in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Nov. 5th.

On Nov. 5th the large crowd was stunned and angry when they heard Johannes Mehserle's sentence of two years in prison. They marched through the streets of Oakland, chanting loudly. Some resorted to vandalism.

Cars were smashed, windows broken. Near Laney College hundreds filled the streets. Police in riot gear waited. The crowd began moving. That's when the massive police crackdown happened. When it was over, 150 people were arrested.

Dan Spalding was a legal observer working for the National Lawyers Guild. He says Oakland police never gave an order to disperse and that's not all.

"They have to give you a physical place to disperse and they have to give you enough time to disperse and none of those things happened," said Spalding.

Spalding says it was worse after they were arrested. He says the protesters were held for many hours on buses in handcuffs.

"They kept us there for a seemingly interminably length of time. There were people who had to urinate in their pants because they physically had no place where to go," said Spalding.

The National Lawyers Guild filed a class action suit. Its lawyers and the city settled for $1 million. Each of the 150 protestors will receive about $4,000.

Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo heads the Public Safety Committee. He told us, "Bottom line is the behavior has to change on both ends because it is costing the city of Oakland a tremendous amount of money."

That agreement calls for Oakland police and the Alameda County Sheriff to implement new procedures that would guarantee the rights of protesters during future mass arrests. Sheriff Gregory Ahern tells us he's already done that. He's ordered his office to draft new policies that would expedite the citing and release of protesters.

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Tags:
oakland, oscar grant, protest, lawsuit, OPD, east bay news, vic lee
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