Veteran For Peace member, Scott Olsen, a Marine Corps veteran twice deployed to Iraq, is in hospital now in stable but serious condition with a fractured skull, struck by a police projectile fired into a crowd in downtown Oakland, California in the early morning hours of today. Other people were injured in the assault and many were arrested after Oakland police in riot gear were ordered to evict people encamped in the ongoing "Occupy Oakland" movement. Olsen is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
VFP members are involved with dozens of these local "occupy movement" encampments and we support them fully. In Boston, for example, our members, wearing VFP shirts and carrying VFP flags, stood between a line of police and the encampment, urging police to "join the 99%" and not evict the protesters. In that case, several of our members were banged and bruised when the police decided instead to carry out their eviction orders.
In Oakland, last night, a similar thing happened, according to VFP Chapter 69 member and Navy veteran, Joshua Sheperd, who said he went to downtown Oakland "to see if, as a VFP member, I could help still the anger...to be between the police and the protesters...it seemed unconscionable to me that the police use the cover of darkness like that to do what they were doing." Fortunately, he was not injured in the police assault that left Olsen with a fractured skull
As with virtually every example of the occupy movement across the country, those encamped were conducting themselves peacefully beforehand, protesting current economic, social and environmental conditions in the U.S. brought about by decades of corporate control, a criminal financial industry and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are driving the U.S. global empire into bankruptcy. These "occupy movement" participants are telling us something we need very desperately to hear. They should be listened to, not arrested and brutalized.
Police in the majority of cities are acting with restraint and humanity towards the encampments, but Veterans For Peace will not be deterred by police who choose to use brutal tactics. In fact, as happens with repression everywhere, more people join the cause. We do believe that the rank and file police officers are part of the 99%, the overwhelming majority of Americans who are suffering at the hands of an intolerable system. Layoffs and cutbacks in city after city prove that we must join together to demand justice for all.
We send our very best to Scott Olsen and his family and wish him a speedy recovery to health.
We shall not be moved.
Address for the hospital where Scott Olsen is recovering, if you wish to send a card.
1411 E. 31st Street
Oakland, CA 94602
UPDATE - Message from Director, Mike Ferner regarding incident at Occupy Oakland
Brothers and Sisters
I just got off the phone with VFP Chapter 69 member, Josh Sheperd, who was at 14th and Broadway in Oakland early this morning and witnessed much of what happened.
Josh said that after receiving several text messages with news of the Oakland PD taking down tents and arresting people, he decided to go to downtown Oakland and "see if, as a VFP member, I could help still the anger...to be between the police and the protesters...it seemed unconscionable to me that the police use the cover of darkness like that to do what they were doing."
He got to the front of the crowd (see photo link, above) and said he "felt a lot of tension in the air."
Shortly thereafter a barrage of "less than lethal" ordnance, tear gas, bean bags and flash-bangs was fired. He and the people he was with took off, regrouped, marched through part of downtown and returned to 14th and Broadway.
There, he went to the front of the crowd immediately, waving the VFP flag. He said the crowd seemed considerably calmer. "It might be just my impression, but there seemed to be a considerable desire for peace and the crowd expressed that."
Next, the Oakland PD issued the "you're going to get arrested if you don't leave" warning. Shortly after that, Josh said, "People in the rear of the crowd threw eggs at the police and that was the OPD's cue to fire another barrage."
In that barrage, VFP and IVAW member, Scott Olsen was struck in the head with some sort of projectile and was severely injured. Josh reports that Scott was admitted to hospital and has a fractured skull. His condition is stable but serious.
Here are two videos, one showing Scott, wearing a VFP shirt, being carried away.
The other has some slow motion footage that shows flash-bangs being thrown by the police, including one into a group of people standing around someone in the street. It's unclear whether that person is Scott Olsen or not.
IVAW Director, Jose Vasquez, said they are keeping up on the situation, have issued a press release and are contacting national media. They are asking people to call the Oakland Police Dept.
*What you can do:*
- Call the Oakland Police Department *510-777-3333; 510-238-3365; 510-238-3131
- Attend a rally at the OPD headquarters later today*
- Go to the nearest occupation encampment in your vicinity in solidarity*
For more information in Oakland
Josh Sheperd 415-819-1045
Adelle Carpenter (Civilian-Soldier Alliance) 503-860-5168
Mike Ferner, Interim Director
Veterans For Peace
216 S. Meramec
St. Louis, MO 63105