Ah, Occupy Wall Street. The originally local protest has become a national movement, with shifting violence depending on which city you participate in. If you’re in Oakland, Tuesday night looked like a scene from a Michael Bay movie and the police’s overreaction reminded me of a little story … like to hear it? Here it go.
When I was a flirty, shit-talking college kid attending UCDavis in Northern California, frat parties were my weekly exercise. I’d pop my DJ Quik’s Rhythmalism CD into my Nissan Altima, pick up my girls and ride out. One Friday night, my best friend and I hooked up with a group of other friends and headed to Oakland for a Kappa Alpha Psi party. Naturally, the boys had promoted the event all over the NorCal, from San Francisco to Chico, so the entry line was literally wrapped around the building and down the street. Most of us didn’t get into the party, save for a few who worked their Alpha Kappa Alpha magic on some side door, promising to let the rest of us in when they could. One problem: the lucky three had the car keys to one of our vehicles.
As the Oakland police shut down the event’s door, shooing away almost all of the disgruntled party-goers, we, dressed in short dresses, heels and lipgloss, asked an officer to allow one of us to go in and find the friend with the car keys so we could all leave.
“No, move along ma’am,” says a black officer.
“But, we are trying to leave like you’re telling us to, but we can’t without the car keys,” says Us. “We’re not trying to sneak in, just leave.”
“No,” says black officer.
“But that doesn’t make sense, if you’re trying to make us leave,” I say. “Why won’t you help us to do what you’re asking by letting us get the keys?”
“Look, move along,” says another officer.
Eventually, a girlfriend and I are face to face with the cops on a staircase, pleading our case when the black officer says if my girl doesn’t leave … “I’m going to push you.”
“No you’re not, because that breaks quite a few laws including … ,” I say with a snort as I count off the many ways his threat is illegal. While I’m rattling off facts, the officer comes closer to my girl who’s beside me and a few stairs below him. She loses her balance, raises her arm to regain her footing and as she does, the black officer punches her in the face and pushes her down the staircase. Suddenly, the world goes completely silent. People are moving — She tumbles down the steps with the cop after here, the rest of my girls are being beaten by the police, running and screaming in every direction —but my disbelief is making it all a Spike Lee still-movement scene.
Finally I snap out of it and push the police officer away from my girl, who he’s now dragging down the street by her ponytails, so he turns his anger toward me. I start running as fast as my two inch platform thongs will carry me — blame 2000’s fashion preoccupation with Asia— until I’m choked from behind, drug a ways on my toes and somehow sprayed with mace — I realize this when my face is on fire later that morning at around 4 a.m.
The police beat us until realizing they should probably leave before too many others see what’s happening. We take my girl to the paramedics, who don’t believe us at first when we say we’ve been beaten. I, a true Bay Area girl, then hop in my Altima with my bestie after I make sure my girl’s OK and search for the officers, namely the black one, who beat on us to get his badge number and turn his ass in. Of course, now they’re all hiding somewhere and when I go to the Oakland police headquarters, they say it’s too late to report a complaint. Ladies, it’s never too late to report someone.
So what happened?
We hired the Johnnie Cochran of Oakland, lawyer John Burris, sued the OPD and I ended up with enough dough to buy a second car. Great, right? Ehn … What I really wanted was to have the black police officer and his sidekicks to be fired but that never happened because the Oakland Police Citizen’s Review Board, comprised of retired cops, decided that wasn’t the best plan of action. The Oakland Police Citizen’s Review Board is also comprised of unsympathetic derelicts with no knowledge of what life is like on the other side of an OPD baton.
Why do I tell this story? The Oakland police’s reaction to their local Occupy Wall Street protests are only surprising to people who aren’t black and from the Bay Area, or anywhere in California, honestly. I’ll never forget what my mother said when my 20-year-old self called to say I’d been beaten.
“Well, did you take any photos of your bruises or go to the hospital?” she asked plainly with a sigh. My mom, a child of 1960s Los Angeles, knew it was only a matter time before I was attacked by the police.
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