2.24pm: I’ve just spoken to Keith Shannon, roommate of Scott Olsen, the Iraq veteran who is in hospital after apparently having been hit in the head by a police projectile.
Shannon said doctors told him Olsen has a “skull fracture and swelling of the brain”. A neurosurgeon will assess Olsen later today to determine whether he needs surgery, Shannon said.
Olsen, 24, was in 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, before leaving the military last year. He had been opposed to the Iraq war even before his first tour to the country, Shannon said. Shannon and Olsen met in November or December 2005, and share an apartment in Daly City, south of San Francisco.
Rubber bullets and shotgun propelled bean bags can maim and kill, if the person is hit in the head, chest or abdomen. This is over-reaction by the Oakland Police on the orders of Oaklands Chinese-American mayor Jean Quan
While President Obama was telling the small crowd at a $7500-a-plate fundraiser in San Francisco that “Change is possible,” Pooda Miller was across the bay trying to get her plate back from the Oakland Police Department. “They came, pulled out rifles, shot us up with tear gas and took all our stuff,” said Miller, at an afternoon rally condemning the violent evacuation of more than 170 peaceful, unarmed Occupy Oaklanders by 500 heavily-armed members of the Oakland Police Department and other local departments yesterday morning.
Miller and others are calling for the recall of Jean Quan, who made history as Oakland’s first Asian-American mayor (full disclosure: Quan’s daughter is my Facebook friend); and they are complaining about the use of excessive police violence authorized by Interim Chief Howard Jordan, an African American. Such conflicts between former minorities are becoming the norm in what more conservative commentators call the “post-racial” era ushered in by the election of Obama.
Quan and Jordan are in the throes of dealing with a police department plagued by officer-involved shootings and killings, corruption and other crimes-crimes that have forced a federal consent decree to reform the department, after officers were convicted of planting evidence and beating suspects in West Oakland. Taking her cue from the Obama campaign of 2008, Quan announced Jordan’s appointment at a public safety forum titled “Creating Hope in the Community.”
Many like Miller and other Occupy Oaklanders are having second thoughts about what feels like the affirmative actioning of policing and state violence. Others, like Ofelia Cuevas of the University of California’s Center for New Racial Studies, see the workings of a not-so-21st-century pattern of policing and power.
From Slate, Why Isn’t Tear Gas Illegal?
Yes, but only in war. The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention doesn’t apply to domestic law enforcement. (The United States was a major proponent of the exemption, fearing that the convention might be interpreted to prohibit lethal injection.)
In enclosed spaces, however, the chemical agent can have much more serious effects. When police plan to use tear gas grenades to flush suspects out of a house, they start by comparing the dose of CS with the volume of the building and calculating a “lethal concentration time.” That’s the number of minutes it will take before most people inside would die from exposure. If the lethal concentration time is nearing, and the suspects haven’t yet emerged, the police start breaking windows for ventilation.
It’s not entirely clear how many people have been killed by CS. Amnesty International said 50 Palestinians died from inhalation in the late 1980s-prompting a brief suspension of tear gas sales to Israel-but those conclusions are disputed. The FBI used CS in its raid on the Branch Davidian compound (PDF) in Waco, but the ensuing fire left it unclear how, exactly, the cult members were killed. Such incidents have prompted a search for less toxic crowd-dispersing chemicals such as malodorants, but none has proven as effective as tear gas. Russia appears to be moving in the other direction, using the powerful opiate fentanyl to incapacitate rebels during a 2002 hostage crisis. That approach ended up killing more than 100 innocent people.
The United States is so enthusiastic about riot-control agents that it has a standing Executive Order reserving the right to use them on the battlefield, in spite of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s prohibition, to protect convoys or prevent the use of civilian shields. While the U.S. hasn’t invoked the order since ratifying the Convention in 1997, Donald Rumsfeld made news in 2003 when he raised the possibility.