Special Topic

FLASHBACK: Oakland Paid $2 Million Settlement After Attacking Dozens Of Antiwar Protesters In 2003

A protester injured in April 2003 protests.

The Oakland Police Department’s heavy-handed use of force — which included using flash grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas — shocked the world as the city moved to crack down on Occupy Oakland.

But the harsh crackdown was not without a historical precedent. In April 2003, the department violently cracked down on raucous Iraq war demonstrations, attacking protesters with concussion grenades, “sting balls,” and other similar weapons:

An anti-war demonstration at the Port of Oakland turned violent this morning when Oakland Police opened fire with wooden dowels, “sting balls,'” concussion grendades, tear gas and other non-lethal weapons when protesters at the gates of two shipping lines refused an order to disperse. Scores of protesters ran from a line of police or tried to hide behind nearby big rigs. At least a dozen demonstrators and nine longshoremen who were standing nearby were injured. “Our guys were standing in one area waiting to go to work, and then the police started firing on the longshoremen,'” said Henry Graham, the president of ILWU Local 10. “Some were hit in the chest with rubber bullets, and seven of our guys went to the hospital. I don’t want to imply that the police deliberately did this, but it doesn’t make sense.”

But the demonstrators were not without recourse. They took the city to court, and Oakland eventually awarded $2 million to 58 demonstrators for police abuses. The people who are being abused by excessive police force today do not have to simply sit and take it. They can utilize the courts to make the city pay them back for what it is doing.