Family seeks reports in police shooting

Henry K. Lee
SF Chronicle, July 20, 2012

Relatives of a man shot and killed by Oakland police lashed out at the department Thursday, saying they have been unable to obtain a full accounting of what led to his death.

Alan Blueford, 18, was shot after witnesses said he pointed a gun at an officer early May 6 during a chase near 92nd Avenue and Birch Street in East Oakland, according to police.

But Blueford’s relatives reiterated Thursday that they didn’t believe the police version of events. They said they want to see the police report to learn more about the circumstances of the slaying, including why the officer opened fire and whether Blueford received medical care after being shot.

“I cannot begin to tell you what this has done to my life and my family,” said Blueford’s mother, Jeralynn Blueford, 46, of Tracy, at a news conference outside the coroner’s office in downtown Oakland. “I, as his mother – we, as parents – deserve to know what happened to our baby.”

Adam Blueford, the dead man’s father, said, “We want the truth. We’re not going to stand for anything but the truth.”

Representatives of police and the district attorney’s office said they have not turned over their findings to the family because the investigations are still open.

“We established lines of communication with the family early on, and we have continued to share information as it becomes available for release,” said Sgt. Chris Bolton, chief of staff for Chief Howard Jordan.

The incident began when an officer, identified by sources as Miguel Masso, and his partner saw Blueford and two companions on the 1900 block of 90th Avenue shortly after midnight. Blueford appeared to be hiding a gun, police said.

Blueford ran and twice pointed a gun at Masso, who responded with four shots, according to Masso’s attorney, Harry Stern.

Three shots hit Blueford, and the fourth hit the officer in the leg, police said.

Several independent witnesses said they had seen Blueford point the gun, Bolton said.

A gun was recovered at the scene, police said. Investigators do not believe it was fired.

Blueford was on the verge of graduating from Skyline High School in Oakland. He was on felony probation for a burglary conviction from San Joaquin County, Bolton said.

Dan Siegel, an attorney who previously served as legal adviser for Mayor Jean Quan, said at the news conference that authorities’ disclosure of Blueford’s criminal history and their reluctance to release information was “absolutely contemptible” and “slander.”

Stabbing suspect shot by SF police has died

Associated Press

July 19, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco police say a man shot by an officer has died after he allegedly attacked a co-worker at a chocolate factory moments earlier.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said the shooting occurred Wednesday in the city’s Financial District shortly after the 30-year-old temporary worker slashed his co-worker in the arm with a box cutter at the TCHO New American Chocolate at Pier 17 along the city’s Embarcadero.

Suhr said a female officer giving chase ordered the suspect to drop the box cutter when he lunged at her with it. She shot him twice in the upper torso.

Suhr said officers began performing CPR on the suspect as he was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. The suspect’s name has not been released.

Police say the slashing victim at the factory suffered minor injuries.

Oakland school cops halt protest at closed Lakeview

Will Kane
SF Chronicle, Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oakland school police officers cleared out a dozen protesters early Tuesday who were camping in a closed elementary school.

The group of parents and activists had been sleeping at Lakeview Elementary School at 746 Grand Ave. since June 15 to protest the district’s decision to close the school.

District police officers entered the school across from the Grand Lake Theater about 4 a.m. and told the activists they would be arrested if they did not leave, said Troy Flint, a school district spokesman. All but two protesters packed up their belongings and departed.

The remaining two asked to be arrested, Flint said. They were cited and released.

Citing budget problems and declining enrollment, the school board voted in October to close five elementary schools in Oakland: Lakeview, Santa Fe, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Lazear. Parents have been fighting to save the schools ever since.

Flint said school officials had been unable to reason with the protesters.

“We didn’t act immediately because we didn’t want it to turn into a law enforcement event,” he said. “We do have to get prepared for the next school year, and there are plans for that facility.”

Flint said the school will house the district’s family services unit.

Jack Gerson, a retired Oakland teacher who was involved with the protest, said the group would continue to fight the proposed closure. Closing schools will hurt Oakland students, Gerson said.

Activists had held group discussions on their vision of the school’s future, Gerson said.

“We’re going to continue across the street for at least the next week,” he said. “We think (the community) stands for what is needed – not closing down schools.”

Unruly Oakland meeting over Occupy, ‘violence’

Matthai Kuruvila
SF Chronicle, May 26, 2012

Councilwoman Pat Kernighan said she will push forward an ordinance banning possession of shields, sticks and other “tools of violence” at demonstrations even though a vitriolic discussion of the issue shut down a public meeting this week.

The unruly Public Safety Committee meeting was cut short on Tuesday when Kernighan, who chairs the committee, decided that members of Occupy Oakland threatened the safety of the sole public speaker who supported the ordinance. Kernighan and the speaker left with a police escort.

The man, who identified himself as a 26-year resident of downtown Oakland, had said that protesters’ behavior “borders on terrorism.” Occupiers then charged him and grabbed his microphone. One man came up to his face and said, “You’re not going to make it home.”

“That’s when I closed the meeting,” Kernighan said.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Kernighan and City Attorney Barbara Parker, would ban shields, fire accelerants, clubs and hammers, which have been used repeatedly in protests to commit vandalism or attack police. Possession of those items could result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The councilwoman said she will modify the proposal to address concerns raised by some speakers at the meeting, including clarifying what is banned. Prohibiting shields is the most controversial element. Police say protesters have used shields to charge officers and protect those who hurl objects at police. Occupiers say the shields are essential to protect themselves from police, who have been captured on video shooting bean bags at visibly peaceful protesters.

Kernighan said she is exploring whether smaller shields might be acceptable, such as 2 by 2 feet.

She said the revised ordinance will make it clear that camera tripods and monopods are not clubs, and that water bottles are legal for protesters to carry. “Water bottles and cameras are not a problem,” she said. “It’s the items that have been consistently used for vandalism – the paint projectiles, the fire accelerants, the large wrenches and hammers. There is zero reason for any of those things to be brought to a protest march.”

Police searches

Kernighan said she will also clarify that police cannot freely search demonstrators for banned items and that they will have to follow laws requiring probable cause to search people and their bags.

Those changes do little to resolve the problems with the proposed ordinance, said Jesse Trepper, a member of Occupy Oakland’s antirepression committee.

“I don’t want to give them more ways to criminalize protest,” Trepper said. “The things she’s complaining about, like property damage, are already crimes.”

Typically, council items have to be approved in committees before coming to the full council. Because Tuesday’s meeting was canceled before a vote, Kernighan said she will use a procedural move to bring the ordinance to the full council, probably in six weeks.

Uproar grows

The disrupted meeting has caused a growing furor at City Hall, with city staff and elected officials angry at Occupiers but also at Kernighan, who they blame for not keeping a better handle on the meeting.

Occupiers repeatedly hurled a misogynistic slur at Kernighan, while she told them to “shut the hell up.”

“I should have shut the meeting down earlier,” Kernighan conceded.

Yet Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who was not at the meeting, said the shutdown made the city look like “a circus” or “The Jerry Springer Show,” a television program notorious for having audience scrums.

“We cannot allow a group of people – clowns – to shut down a meeting,” he said on Thursday. “It’s the responsibility of our administration and the police to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Council President Larry Reid said it was the worst public meeting he’d seen in 30 years and walked out before it ended. Reid told De La Fuente: “I promise you: It will not happen again.”

UC police arrest 9 as they clear Occupy the Farm

Michael Cabanatuan and Ellen Huet
SF Chronicle, May 15, 2012

A three-week-long protest on UC Berkeley agricultural research land in Albany came to a quiet close early Monday when police cleared out a small group of protesters who had set up an urban farming camp.

University police officers in riot helmets arrested nine people after giving protesters 10 minutes to leave the Gill Tract near Marin and San Pablo avenues about 6:15 a.m. When officers fanned out across the fields, the few protesters who had not obeyed the police order scurried off the property and onto San Pablo, which authorities had closed to traffic.

Two protesters were arrested on suspicion of trespassing, said Lt. Eric Tejada, a police spokesman.

Work crews moved in shortly after 7:30 a.m. and began removing activists’ tents and supplies as several dozen protesters watched from the sidewalk. Seven were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly after they refused to move off San Pablo Avenue, said Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley spokesman.

The Occupy the Farm activists, who are loosely affiliated with the national Occupy Wall Street movement, had agreed to stop sleeping at the camp over the weekend. But most had not left the property and refused to negotiate with UC Berkeley administrators, Tejada said.

“UC has been in long negotiations, but the negotiations have never proven to be fruitful because they (the activists) literally never came to the table,” Tejada said.

Some decide to stay

One of the protesters, Ashoka Finley of Richmond, said he had been standing guard when police arrived. Finley said some protesters had decided they would rather be arrested farming than flee from police.

“We made a conscious decision to be inside,” he said.

Crews used a bulldozer to clear away more of the camp at midday, including a wooden structure frame labeled as a chicken coop. Protesters gathered against a fence and police responded by lining up inside, but no protesters re-entered the tract.

End of standoff

Lesley Haddock, an organizer of the protest, said the group wanted to cultivate crops, not camp on the property.

“We are going to be back on the farm one way or another, either outside looking in or inside cultivating our crops,” she said. “We’re not giving up on this land.”

Monday’s action was the culmination of a standoff that began when activists moved onto the tract April 22 as a protest against planned commercial development and housing nearby. They were pressuring the university to preserve part of the tract, which has been the subject of development debates for years, for agricultural study and urban farming.

The protesters tilled 2 acres on a site used by the College of Natural Resources for research. They planted vegetables, set up a drip system and pitched tents.

Last week, the UC Board of Regents filed a lawsuit against 14 protesters, claiming they and others had conspired to cut through chains that secured gates and trespass onto the Gill Tract.

The suit says a 24-hour-a-day encampment is not consistent with agricultural experiments, and that the demonstrators are delaying an annual corn planting.

“It’s impossible to do good science when you have a few dozen untrained, unsupervised and uninvited guests roaming around an open-air lab,” Mogulof said.

S.F. Occupy activists evicted from building

Ellen Huet and Erin Allday
SF Chronicle, April 3, 2012

Police on Monday evicted and arrested nearly 80 Occupy activists who had taken over an empty San Francisco building the night before and had stockpiled bricks and supplies with the apparent intention of staying long-term.

Officers in riot gear stormed the two-story building at 888 Turk St. at about 1:15 p.m. after tearing down a barricade protesters built to block the main entrance, said police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak.

The building, which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, has been used as a music education facility by the archdiocese-associated nearby Sacred Heart Cathedral High School.

Occupy protester Beth Seligman said Monday morning that a few hundred people came into the building and stayed the night, but police said they believed that only about 80 people were inside Monday afternoon.

Activists said they chose to take over the building because they believed it has been vacant for five years and should be used as a center for health services and education instead of standing empty.

George Wesolek, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the activists were wrong about the building’s vacant status. The building was used for regular music classes until as recently as 18 months ago, Wesolek said. The archdiocese was also considering leasing out the building and using the revenue to help with financial aid for low-income Sacred Heart students, he said.

“This is definitely not a vacant building,” Wesolek said. “It’s not forgotten. It has a purpose.”

Late Sunday night, the archdiocese signed a citizens’ arrest for the occupiers on charges of trespassing and graffiti. By Monday afternoon, police said it had become clear the protesters were planning to stay in the building for quite a while, Andraychak said.

Demonstrators had “stockpiled” bricks and cans of paint on the roof of the building, he said, and they blocked windows and doors with plywood and stacks of chairs.

After police broke through the main door, protesters fled deeper into the building, barricading doors and stairways along the way, Andraychak said. One man jumped from a second-floor window to avoid police, but was caught soon after, he said.

There were no injuries during the arrests, Andraychak said.

The interior of the building on Monday afternoon, after the protesters had been removed, was covered in spray-painted graffiti and posters and photographs from previous Occupy events. There were signs on the walls to designate sleeping areas, “media free zones” and smoking rooms.

Protesters left behind sleeping bags and backpacks, guitars and a tambourine. A half-eaten sandwich sat on a crate in one room, and in the kitchen were boxes full of fresh fruits and vegetables. In one large room on the second floor, a bowl of dog food sat next to an empty bottle of tequila.

“They had no intention of leaving,” Andraychak said.

Mayor Ed Lee, who has been criticized for being indecisive in his handling of the Occupy encampment at Justin Herman Plaza in late 2011, said before the arrests Monday that he was deferring to Police Chief Greg Suhr on plans to oust the protesters.

The mayor said he sympathized with the Occupy protesters’ concerns over vacant buildings, but suggested they compile a list of vacant properties and share it with city officials rather than going the attention-grabbing route and taking them over.

“Identifying a building is one thing,” Lee said. “When you occupy it and it’s not in a condition of livability, it could be a danger for everybody.

“I personally would love to see every vacancy in the whole city have some plan and activity going on in it,” Lee added. “I hate seeing vacancies in storefronts.”

Occupy Arcata Heights Ends With A Splatter

Kevin L. Hoover – Arcata Eye Editor

Anderson Valley Advertiser, March 14, 2012

Tom Vanciel's Occupy Arcata House. Photos by KLH | Eye

Tom Vanciel’s Occupy Arcata House. Photos by KLH | Eye

K STREET – The house is still there at 1250 K Street, replete with painted slogans and redolent with animal waste. But the numerous two- and four-legged occupants who lived in and around Tom Vanciel’s urban homestead are gone, this time for good… probably.

Vanciel is casually known as “Yak Man” for his strolls around town in the company of his yak. Sometimes he is accompanied by roommate Samuel Sanchez, known to casual observers at “Goat Man” for his town treks with his goat companion.

In recent months, Vanciel and Sanchez have been joined at the house by kindred spirit Geronimo Garcia, whom one neighbor referred to as “Chicken Man,” for the flock of fowl which lived in and around his residential bike trailer in the driveway.

Last Thursday morning, Arcata Police stood by as the house’s water service was turned off. But the yak, goat and chicken men had already departed.

The house is now owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Freddie Mac, which foreclosed on it last year. Though ownership transferred last Oct. 27, Vanciel and his flock refused to depart until last Thursday morning.

Samuel Sanchez and Tom Vanciel roam about town with their companion animals.

By the time it was vacated and secured last Thursday night, the $300,000 property had become an animal farm, inside and out. A dozen or so goats, a yak, chickens and possibly a cow had been living there with their human companions. The impacts of the dense habitation on the single-family residential home are easily seen – and smelled.

The backyard, once a carefully tended wonderland, is a defoliated, waste-drenched bog. Former resident Rebecca LaCasse recalled when Mildred Moore, now deceased, owned the home.

“It was full of old roses, big old camellias and fragrant rhodies, it had a round-a-bout path through mounds of oxalis,” recalled LaCasse. “There were scads of daffodil and narcissus, Japanese maples…it was like a beautiful forest grove.”

“She had created a beautiful garden with a small pond in the back, full of established plants and trees.” remembered Kate Christensen, who also lived there for a time. “The inside of the house was in good condition. Hardwood floors in great shape.”

Those hardwood floors, as well as the walls, closets and even the bathtub are presently covered in pools of housepaint. Thursday morning, the gray paint was still wet throughout the house, with the largest splatter in the front bedroom spelling out “LOVE” in capital letters.

Straw and animal feces are strewn about– mingled with the wet paint in places – and the stinging stench of urine pervades the house. Bedrooms host abandoned personal knick-knacks and animal enclosures, while walls are covered in slogans advocating peace, liberty and understanding. “STOP HATE” is written in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror.

A mixed-media, mixed message – love through vandalism? – in paint, straw and other random objects in the front bedroom.

Since 2010, Vanciel has been ignoring warning letters from the City about Land Use Code violations for keeping the farm animals at the suburban home. Last May, he and his animals departed to the Southwest for a time, but the rugged individualist and his animal entourage returned to the home he purchased with his wife Nancy in August, 2007.

When his wife moved out a couple of years ago, say neighbors, Vanciel’s eccentricities surfaced and magnified, as did negative encounters with authority. Facing foreclosure by Bank of America, Vanciel’s  angry suspicion of the society around him intensified, and he dug in.

Tapping into the energy around last fall’s progressive quasi-insurgency, Vanciel rechristened his home “Occupy Arcata Heights.”  The in-town animal ranch, plus the modifications to the property, brought inevitable attempts at enforcement of Arcata’s Land Use Code in the neighborhood which is  zoned Residential Low-Density.

Each City complaint or letter from the bank only seemed to deepen Vanciel’s resolve and bring forth more conflict with neighbors, who were increasingly alarmed at the goings-on at his home.

The final spiral began several days before last Christmas,  when Vanciel got a letter from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) warning him of imminent eviction.

This was followed by another round of warning letters from the City, with a rare Nuisance Abatement agenda item slated for next week’s City Council meeting. As late as last week, City Building Official Dean Renfer was still corresponding with Freddie Mac officials about violations at the house.

A letter dated Monday, March 5 notes building code violations over an addition to the garage roof, since removed, and the presence of large animals in violation of the Land Use Code.

Neighbors said Vanciel had constructed a 24-foot-tall “meditation tower” in the backyard at one point. Last April, a neighbor complained that Vanciel had built a fence on his property, even nailing boards to the neighbor’s house.

To Vanciel, the objections were a ruse to legitimize theft of his property and to silence his objections to government wrongdoing. In repeated complaints to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, he claimed that toxic emissions from Rich’s Body Shop across the street had exacerbated his health problems, physical and mental. None of the alleged violations were ever verified.

“He’d call whenever he got a whiff of something,” said Al Steer, compliance and enforcement division manager. “He’d call up and start screaming, and I don’t put up with that.”

Nonetheless, Steer dutifully checked out the complaints.

“I went over two times and sent three officers on six occasions,” he said. “There was a minimum of 10 visits. On no case was there any exceedence of any kind of emission limit.”

Vanciel also believes that fluoride in drinking water has corrupted the thought processes of those who consume it, making them obedient to government control. A neighbor passing by last weekend was told – loudly – she was in the grip of delusion by the “fluoride tea” that composes Arcata’s drinking water.

Conversations with passersby followed a similar pattern – initially cordial, but swiftly escalating into shouting as Vanciel, Sanchez and Garcia would lose their composure.

“He tends to run to the high side,” Steer said.

Like Occupy emplacements at Arcata City Hall and in Eureka, the K Street occupation station was riven by internal dissension as well as rocky relations with the outside world.

A neighbor reported loud arguments in the backyard, with Vanciel telling Garcia to stop drinking and warning him that he would be evicted. Somewhat comically, Garcia replied that Vanciel couldn’t evict him from a property he didn’t own, the neighbor said.

Other neighbors said that Garcia spent three nights up on the house’s rooftop haranguing the neighborhood over various issues. “He was very loud for a long time,” said next-door neighbor Michael Winkler, who happens to be Arcata’s mayor. “Then the cops came and after that, not a peep.”

A sign reading “Geronimo Motel” soon appeared in the house’s front yard in apparent mockery of the former City Council candidate’s continued occupancy.

Neighbor Eliot Baker’s experience was typical. “I tried to talk to them during a loud fight they were having in the yard recently, waking me up by screaming at each other and slamming things around,” Baker said. “They told me to fuck off because they were role-modeling fighting without guns. After an attempted lecture on the Constitution I just walked away.”

Tom Vanciel

Despite heading up a City government which Vanciel had termed a “fascist puppet dictatorship,” the affable Mayor Winkler maintained neighborly, non-political relations with the irascible crew. He said Garcia told him that Freddie Mac had obtained a court order evicting everyone on March 8.

With the house now vacant, Freddie Mac will presumably make repairs and put the property back on the market. The damage, while unsightly, is mostly superficial and reversible.

But that resolution leaves some questions unanswered. Unknown for now are the present whereabouts of Vanciel and associates. Another riddle for many is the contradiction inherent in Vanciel’s ways – ardently advocating love, but usually with severe, hair-trigger hostility.

“I see a disconnect between the slogans plastered all over their house and their complete and utter lack of respect and willingness to build community with their neighbors,” Eliot said. “Love isn’t just something you write or say, it is something you do.”

Winkler said Vanciel was doing the best he could in uniquely challenging circumstances, pursuing his ideals despite severe emotional and financial hardship. “He had some difficult challenges,” Winkler said, noting that Vanciel’s wife had left him two years ago. “The Occupy movement gave meaning to his life,” Winkler observed. “His home was a center for his alternative lifestyle and a place to express his beliefs, his outrage at the economic and social conditions in the community.”

Contacted last week, Vanciel was suspicious of the inquiry. “To use the metaphor of five minutes to midnight before atomic destruction, he wrote in an e-mail, “May  I ask why  it is you’ve waited  to offer help?”

Vanciel went on the explain his relationship with his animal companions, and their joint mission in Arcata: “The Sacred Holy  Yaks that Sam and I accompany and shepherd from the evils of this murderous society are not to be approached by meat eaters, tobacco smokers, alcohol drinkers, gun bearers or imperial fascists. These are special spiritual envoys from Tibet. We are blessed to accompany  them on their spiritual mission. They are here to purify and bless the mess you call Arcata.”

Occupy Education: Dozens Of Protesters Demonstrating In State Capitol Arrested

Associated Press 03/5/12

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Highway Patrol officers arrested dozens of protesters who refused to leave the state Capitol Monday night after repeated warnings, capping off a day of protests over cuts to higher education that saw thousands descend upon Sacramento.

CHP Capt. Andy Manard said police expected the number of people arrested to be 68. They would be charged with trespassing, he said.

Police started pulling out protesters who remained in the Capitol rotunda around 7:30 p.m., more than an hour after they began warning them with a bullhorn to leave. Protesters chanted “We’re doing this for your kids,” as they were lifted up by the arms one-by-one, handcuffed with plastic ties and led them away.

“We gave them about seven or eight opportunities to avoid arrest,” Manard said. “We wanted to give them every opportunity to leave. Having that many arrests puts a stress on the jails too.”

He said the protesters would be taken to the Sacramento County Jail.

Several lawmakers watched from a second-floor balcony.

Hundreds of protesters remained outside the Capitol, along with hundreds of officers in riot gear who flanked the building. A CHP helicopter circled overhead throughout the day and evening. Manard said there were 210 officers for Monday’s events.

Those arrested were part of a daylong protest over state budget cuts to higher education that have led to steep tuition increases and fewer courses at California’s public universities and colleges.

The sit-in was staged after thousands of protesters swarmed the Capitol lawn, waving signs and chanting, “They say cut back, we say fight back.”

“We were expecting to have a good future, but things are looking uncertain for a lot of families,” said Alison Her, 19, a nursing student at California State University, Fresno. “I’m the oldest in my family and I want my siblings to be able to go to college, too.”

Organizers had hoped that 10,000 protesters would demonstrate against rising tuition rates and demand that state lawmakers restore funding for higher education. But the actual turnout fell short.

After the rally, hundreds of students lined up to enter the Capitol and filled conference rooms and hallways inside. Some met with lawmakers to lobby for increased funding for higher education, while others headed for the rotunda.

CHP officers allowed several hundred students to settle on the black and white marble floor of the rotunda before all four hallway entrances to the area were blocked. Another hundred students sat down in a hallway, communicating with fellow protesters by call and response.

Protesters spent two hours debating in call and response whether to stay after 6 p.m. and get arrested. They developed a list of core demands to present to lawmakers, including taxing the rich, educating prisoners and funding free textbooks.

A statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus was decorated with signs reading “Stop the fee increases” and “Occupy education.”

Four people were arrested during the day, CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said. Three women were arrested for failing to obey an officer’s order after trying to unfurl a banner on the second floor, and a man was arrested outside the building for being in possession of a switchblade knife, the CHP said.

Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement that the protest highlights the need for California voters to approve a tax increase he has proposed for the November ballot.

“The students today are reflecting the frustrations of millions of Californians who have seen their public schools and universities eroded year after year,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a written statement. “That’s why it’s imperative that we get more tax revenue this November.”

Brown’s initiative would fund education and public safety programs by temporarily raising income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year and temporarily increasing the sales tax by half a cent.

The University of California Student Association has endorsed a rival initiative that would tax millionaires and earmark the revenue for education. The California Federation of Teachers and state PTA support that initiative.

Buses brought hundreds of students in from as far away as the University of California, Riverside, 450 miles south of Sacramento, for Monday’s march.

The crowd was a sea of red and white, as many wore T-shirts that said “Refund our Education” and “March March.”

Tuition has nearly doubled in the past five years, to $13,000 for resident undergraduates at University of California schools and to $6,400 at California State University schools. Community college fees are set to rise to $46 per unit by this summer, up from $20 per unit in 2007.

Sam Resnick, 20, a history student at Pasadena City College, brought a tent with him to the rally.

“We want to show the state government that we care about our education, and we’re not going to leave until they make it a priority,” Resnick said.

Despite participation from outside groups, including Occupy movement protesters and supporters of the millionaire’s tax, student organizers tried to keep the focus on education cuts.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, urged the students in a speech to use social media to spread the word about how much debt they are forced to take on to attend public colleges and universities. Perez and other Democrats support Brown’s tax proposal.

“For thousands of students across California, the debt is too much to take on and the bill is too high,” he said.

But at one point, the crowd drowned Perez out, chanting “Show us.”

Occupy, Oakland blame each other for violence

Demian Bulwa and Justin Berton
SF Chronicle – Monday, January 30, 2012

Oakland officials and Occupy protesters confronted the fallout from their increasingly toxic conflict on Sunday, a day after the tensions reignited in chaotic, often violent demonstrations that resulted in at least 400 arrests. Once again, each side blamed the other for sparking the violence.

City officials took stock of the damage from Saturday’s clashes, which included injuries to three police officers and several protesters, as well as vandalism inside City Hall.

There, dozens of protesters had broken in with a crowbar, grabbed an American flag, and ignited it on the front steps.

“It’s like a tantrum,” Mayor Jean Quan said while showing the damage inside the building, which included a broken model of City Hall she estimated to be 100 years old. “They’re treating us like a playground.”

Quan said Occupy Oakland had “refused to be nonviolent” and, as a result, was “turning off the rest of the movement.” She said police would step up efforts to obtain restraining orders against some protesters to keep them from approaching City Hall.

Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan, at an afternoon news conference, said 14 outside police agencies had provided mutual aid to Oakland. He did not know the exact number of people arrested.

Outside City Hall on Sunday, some activists who had gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza condemned the officers who responded aggressively Saturday to stop Occupy Oakland from seizing the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and turning it into a headquarters for the movement.

They accused officers of using batons, beanbag bullets and tear gas without justification.

“Whatever qualms people have with Occupy Oakland, it’s the police who have committed the most egregious violence,” said Scott Johnson, a 34-year-old Oakland resident. “They instigated the violence by not allowing us to take over an unused building.”

Future action

Later Sunday, at a “general assembly” in Ogawa Plaza, a few hundred people discussed a variety of proposals for future action, including a call for a general strike on May 1.

But the disorganized nature of Saturday’s demonstration, and the hours-long street skirmishes that were broadcast on television and the Internet, left some protesters with mixed feelings.

Some said the building takeover was poorly planned and that they did not condone the actions of those who vandalized City Hall or threw rocks and other objects at police.

“Today we need to clean up again,” said Rachel Dorney, 23, who said she was pushed to the ground by a police officer during the rally. “I know that people are pissed at the cops and that’s how they act out, but it just hurts Oakland.”

Others said the movement in Oakland has strayed too far from the core message of economic justice.

Officer Johnna Watson, a police spokeswoman, said the officer who suffered the most serious injuries was struck in the face by a bicycle, suffering a cut. A second officer was cut on the hand, she said, and a third had a bruise.

She said some of the arrested protesters were released after being processed through County Jail, while others – including those suspected of felony assault – would be held until they post bail.

Jordan said at least three journalists were temporarily detained Saturday, including Gavin Aronsen, an editorial fellow at Mother Jones, who was taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin before being released.

Watson displayed items she said were recovered from protesters, including knives, mace, scissors and a tear gas canister, as well as a large shield that protesters had used while clashing with police.

The shield was 7 feet wide and 4 feet tall, with corrugated metal siding over a wood frame. Seven metal handles were bolted to the frame, and the words “Commune move in” were painted in red and black.

‘New territory’

“They’re well-built, they’re maneuverable and they’re effective,” Watson said of the shields. “We have to change our police strategies. This is new territory for law enforcement.”

Watson said her department needs its officers to return to their regular duties. Oakland has had five homicides since Friday night.

The police focus on Occupy activists was a cause of concern for Isaac Kaly, who said his Oakland church, Kingdom Life International Ministries, had been broken into late Saturday or early Sunday by burglars. Kaly, an assistant pastor, said church officials called police at 9:45 a.m. Sunday but were told that officers were too busy to respond.

“They said they would come out (Monday) to take a report,” Kaly said. “Everybody deserves service. That’s why we pay the police.”

Saturday’s demonstration, which brought more than 1,000 people downtown, began on a festive note. After a brief noon rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, Occupy supporters, accompanied by a small marching band, filled the street with banners.

Jordan said he did not consider the rally to be peaceful, however, because of marchers’ plan to seize a building and because some of the protesters slashed tires as they walked.

Secret destination

Most marchers had no idea where they were going, because organizers kept secret the building they hoped to seize. Tensions rose as marchers arrived at the long-shuttered convention center just south of Lake Merritt and began tearing down fences.

Police ordered marchers to disperse after someone in the crowd threw what appeared to be a smoke bomb at the officers. The protesters refused, touching off the first of several confrontations.

Police pushed the crowd back down 12th Street toward downtown, and eventually the demonstrators ended up where they had begun – back at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Their numbers smaller than before, the marchers set out from the plaza a second time after dark, heading north. Again it was unclear where the group was headed.

At one point, around 6:30 p.m., police cornered marchers near the YMCA at 24th Street and Broadway, and some of the protesters burst into the building, surprising people working out in the gym.

Nineteen people were arrested earlier in the day. Jordan said 44 people were arrested inside the YMCA, with scores more taken into custody outside.

Police said the mass arrests were necessary because protesters failed to obey orders to disperse. But some protesters said the arrests were made unlawfully, before they had a chance to follow police orders, and suggested that they might take legal action against the city.

Occupy Oakland activists rally for former pariah

Demian Bulwa, SF Chronicle – Monday, January 9, 2012

Occupy Oakland protesters are rallying behind Marcel "Khali" Johnson, a mentally ill man who was arrested during a demonstration outside City Hall last month. Photo: Courtesy Adam Katz / SF

Occupy Oakland protesters are rallying behind Marcel “Khali” Johnson, a mentally ill man who was arrested during a demonstration outside City Hall last month. Photo: Courtesy Adam Katz / SF

PLEASANTON— One obstacle Occupy Oakland faced after building a City Hall encampment came not from authorities but from within – a mentally ill homeless man with a long prison record who witnesses said beat fellow campers in fits of rage. Some were so frightened they moved out.

No one called the police on the man, who called himself “Kali.” Instead, he was banished in an act of freelance justice, with a protester knocking him unconscious with a two-by-four Oct. 18. Police cleared the tent city a week later, and Mayor Jean Quan has cited the incident as a motivating factor.

Times have changed. On Monday, dozens of Occupy Oakland protesters went to a courthouse in Pleasanton to rail against prosecutors for filing assault charges against Marcel “Kali” Johnson, 38. Some said they forgave him and have come to see him as a good man who needs support, not more prison time.

“That’s the beauty of Occupy,” said Laleh Behbehanian, a UC Berkeley graduate student trying to help Johnson. She spoke after telling activists how they can visit him, in groups of four, at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Improved behavior

Johnson returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall a couple of weeks after being knocked unconscious, witnesses said, and did better this time, helping out before police swept through the camp a second time Nov. 14.

Johnson was one of several demonstrators arrested on minor charges there Dec. 16, as Occupy Oakland sought to maintain a 24-hour-a-day vigil. The next day, at Santa Rita Jail, Johnson was accused of assaulting an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy.

According to an affidavit by the arresting officer, Deputy Clifford Malihan, Johnson struggled as a second deputy, referred to as W. Chase, tried to handcuff him and move him between housing units.

Malihan wrote that Johnson first tried to strike Chase in the head, then got behind him and wrapped his arms around him. Malihan said he performed a leg sweep, causing Chase and Johnson to fall, and punched Johnson repeatedly.

Malihan said Chase suffered cuts, bruises and neck pain, while a third deputy suffered a minor concussion from an inadvertent baton strike.

Not-guilty plea

Johnson pleaded not guilty Monday and is scheduled to return to court Feb. 6. Alameda County prosecutors say he has six felony convictions, including one for domestic violence and two for robbery that count as strikes under California’s “three strikes” law, meaning he could face up to 25 years to life in prison.

However, Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said prosecutors had decided – at least for now – not to seek a “three strikes” sentence.

Johnson’s supporters said they believed the alleged assault would not have happened if he had been given proper psychiatric care. Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said the jail had treated Johnson appropriately but would not elaborate, citing Johnson’s privacy rights.

“Are they going to blame someone else for everything he’s done in his criminal history?” Nelson said. “Throughout the course of Occupy we’ve been accused by them of many things regarding the custody and control of inmates.”

‘It’s a family’

Activist Rachel Dorney, 23, said she had tried to calm Johnson in the early days of the Occupy camp, and when he returned after being beaten, she was scared.

“Then, once you’re in our camp, and you’re helping people out, and you’re talking and not being so aggressive, it’s a family,” Dorney said. “And you have to support everyone.”

She added, “There’s a larger issue with the system. The city won’t support people who have mental issues or who are homeless, and they come to us.”

Jaime Omar Yassin, 42, said Johnson had a political awakening through Occupy.

“He’s exactly the kind of person you would hope would get a second chance,” Yassin said, “and contribute his experiences and knowledge to the movement.”