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ACLU, National Lawyers Guild sue Oakland police

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the National Lawyers Guild sued the Oakland Police Department in federal court Monday, seeking an emergency temporary restraining order to stop police violence against political protesters.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg immediately issued an order requiring the city to respond by 5 p.m. today, Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The groups sued on behalf of Timothy Scott Campbell, a videographer who was shot with a bean bag projectile while filming police presence during Occupy Oakland on the night of November 2-3, 2011, and other demonstrators who say they were subjected to excessive force during recent demonstrations.

“I was filming police activity at Occupy Oakland because police should be accountable,” Campbell said in the ACLU’s news release. “Now I’m worried about my safety from police violence and about retaliation because I’ve been outspoken.”

ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said “excessive police force is never acceptable, especially when it’s in response to political protest.” And NLG attorney Rachel Lederman said the Oakland police’s “unconstitutional actions against protestors on those two nights were wholesale and flagrant violations of Oakland’s own Crowd Control Policy.”

The lawsuit argues the police’s conduct violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting protesters who posed no safety concerns to unnecessary and excessive force, and violates the First Amendment by interfering with their rights to assemble and demonstrate. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, arguing the department has shown by its recent actions that it will continue to violate protesters’ constitutional rights unless a court intervenes.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.