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UN reports US police brutality

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    U.N. cites police for being too forceful at rally Oakland police accused of violence against activists By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2004
      U.N. cites police for being too forceful at rally
      Oakland police accused of violence against activists
      By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER

      Here's a distinction Oakland didn't need: A United
      Nations report lists police firing of wooden plugs and
      shot-filled beanbags at antiwar demonstrators last
      April alongside the world's worst cases of government
      defamation and violence against activists in 2003.

      In her 166-page report, Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human
      rights lawyer and investigator for the Geneva-based
      U.N. Commission on Human Rights, suggests that Oakland
      police used excessive force on protesters at the Port
      of Oakland.

      That puts Oakland's finest in the company of the New
      York Police Department -- which charged into
      protesters with horses, batons and pepper spray in
      February 2003 -- and also Gambia, where security
      forces used batons, tear gas, rubber and lead bullets
      to quell student unrest in 2000. In Egypt and
      Pakistan, other protests against the war in Iraq led
      to arrests and alleged torture.

      U.N. human rights officials have written up the United
      States for child prostitution and pornography,
      criminal executions, poor treatment of migrant workers
      and violence against women.

      But the 2004 report is the first in at least five
      years to add the United States to a list of such
      repressive regimes as Indonesia, Burundi, China and
      others that routinely kill, torture, imprison or spy
      on human-rights activists.

      Most of those nations responded to "letters of
      allegation" from U.N. officials. The U.S. State
      Department did not.

      "Since we're a foreign policy organization, typically
      we don't comment on domestic policy issues unless they
      have a foreignpolicy dimension," said State Department
      spokesman Lou Fintor.

      Later in the spring, the U.S. Department of Homeland
      Security reimbursed Oakland by more than $424,000 for
      police overtime in protecting critical infrastructure
      such as the Port of Oakland during the early weeks of
      the war in Iraq.

      "While the U.N. is sending out letters, the Department
      of Homeland Security is patting them on the back with
      $400,000," said David Solnit, a Bay Area organizer for
      Direct Action to Stop the War.

      Police handling of protests in Oakland and New York
      were brought to the attention of the United Nations in
      an American Civil Liberties Union report on post-Sept.
      11 government repression.

      Jilani, a Pakistani human-rights lawyer appointed in
      2000 as special representative to the U.N. Secretary
      General on the situation of human rights defenders,
      made contact with the protesters and their attorneys
      to investigate.

      "It indicates the outrageous actions of Oakland Police
      Department don't comport with international standards
      for how to treat people who are expressing their
      political viewpoint," said Rachel Lederman, staff
      attorney for the National Lawyers Guild in San
      Francisco and co-counsel for 48 protesters pursuing a
      civil rights lawsuit against the city.

      Oakland Police Chief Richard Word could not be reached
      Friday for comment. But he has announced that city
      police no longer will fire wooden dowels as a means of
      crowd control.

      Lederman said the city should prohibit indiscriminate
      use of such "less than lethal" munitions on crowds.

      "These kinds of weapons are in violation of
      international standards generally," she said.

      Jilani's report says at least two protesters in
      Oakland were seriously injured, one of them requiring
      surgery and later a skin graft. Attorneys for the
      demonstrators say at least 50 people were injured,
      more than a dozen seriously enough to seek medical
      attention at local hospitals.

      One of them, Erik Shaw, served as protesters' liaison
      to law enforcement agencies. In the weeks after the
      April 7 protest, Shaw said, he was photographed by
      apparently undercover law officers on several

      searching the flatbed truck that Shaw arrived in, Shaw
      told U.N. investigators. They left when challenged for
      a search warrant, according to the report.

      Antiwar activists will return to the port Wednesday
      for another march, said Direct Action's Solnit.

      "We're going to make sure we still have a right to
      protest," he said.

      Contact Ian Hoffman at ihoffman@...




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