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ACLU loses in court vs. OPD, declares victory

A federal judge has rejected civil-rights groups’ request for a preliminary injunction to keep Oakland Police from using excessive force against Occupy protesters and other demonstrators.

Nonetheless, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California declared victory.

“(E)ven without a favorable ruling at this juncture, we’ve reached our ultimate goal with the lawsuit: stopping further violence by OPD against protesters,” ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye blogged today. “Since the filing of the lawsuit, there has not been a repeat of police violence. OPD has toned down its bad behavior. Whether the timing is coincidental, it’s not a far stretch to assume that being under the scrutiny of yet another court may have impacted OPD’s approach to handling demonstrations.”

The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild filed a lawsuit Nov. 14 on behalf of Scott Campbell, a protester and videographer at whom police apparently fired a beanbag round without provocation or adequate reason.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg basically denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction for the same reasons he had denied the earlier request for a temporary restraining order.

“(P)laintiffs sought a restraining order requiring defendants’ compliance with the entire Crowd Policy. Now they seek an order enjoining Oakland from violating four specific provisions of the Crowd Policy, which govern dispersal orders, and the use of less lethal munitions, flash bang grenades, and tear gas,” Seeborg wrote in his ruling. “As before, the proposed order would require the court to supervise and oversee defendants’ compliance with its own policy. Accordingly, federalism principles still disfavor judicial oversight of local law enforcement agencies, absent evidence of concerted, officially-sanctioned violations of constitutional rights.”

“Whatever the relative strength of each side’s factual record, mere proof of police misconduct does not entitle plaintiffs to an injunction,” the judge wrote. “(B)ecause plaintiffs have not shown a pattern of officially sanctioned misconduct, they have not dispelled doubt as to their standing for injunctive relief, and therefore cannot establish a likelihood of success on the merits.”

UPDATE @ 4:07 P.M.: Gregory Fox, the city’s lawyer, said the city appreciates the attention Seeborg paid to Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan’s testimony. “The judge clearly recognized the chief is committed to both allowing free speech to take place on the streets of Oakland while maintaining order and safety for all those concerned.”

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.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    A tip to the Guild: Don’t quote Lenin in your next brief.

  • Elwood

    Oakland’s moon-faced moron mayor Jean Quan has ordered that there be no “violence” against protesters.

    Apparently this includes standard crowd control tactics.

    Perhaps Mayor Moron could entreat with the protesters not to block streets, throw stuff at the cops, spit on them, call them names, break windows etc.

  • John W

    At least Quan did one intelligent thing by pointing out that Oakland is apparently one of the few ports that actually exports more than it imports. So, we are protesting what?

    Most people are now onto the fact that shutting down the port hurts the workers, not the “one percent.” So, the Occupy geniuses are responding to that with comments like “everybody needs to sacrifice for the greater good,” or “they need to see the big picture.” It was truly inspiring to see one of the Occupiers reach up into the cab of one of the trucks and try to hand the driver a couple of bucks to help offset his wage losses, as though the guy was a panhandler in SF. The trucker politely declined. A more appropriate response would have been to body slam the Occupier by quickly opening his door.