In Which the San Francisco Sheriff Department Drives a Lot of US Marines Into the Ranks of the 99%

The aerial footage is especially unflattering:

Brilliant “crowd control” on the part of the San Francisco Sheriff Department. The citizens of Oakland will sleep soundly in the knowledge that public order is so protected.

After watching the footage from multiple angles many, many times, I think it’s possible that Scott Olsen was struck by frag from a flashbang that exploded to his left. He goes down just as it explodes. The officer aiming his weapon at the crowd in the video below is still aimed in 9 seconds after Olsen goes down, which seems hard to explain (whoever stood their ground and kept filming performed an incredibly brave service, but man would it be nice to have another vantage point):

Video from Raleigh Latham on Vimeo.

Friend Ben Feibleman, who received extensive less-than-lethal training as a member of the Marine Security Guard Battalion, assures me that frag from a flashbang would not have the mass to cause brain damage.  Either way, the use of any munition capable of causing such an injury at the given range meets the US Marine Corps definition of deadly force, which is…

“That force which a person uses with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm or which a reasonable and prudent person would consider likely to create substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily harm[…to] be used as a last resort when all lesser means have failed.”

My point is not that police in the United States are subject to the guiding principles of the Marine Corps.  As a vet who served three tours in Iraq with Third Battalion, Seventh Marines–which is not your friendly neighborhood police department–I think it worth noting that, had Olsen employed the same force against protestors in Iraq that was used against him in Oakland, it could very likely be considered a use of deadly force in a military court martial.

A commenter to the above video brings up the excellent point that regardless of what type of deadly force was employed against Olsen, there is unambiguous footage of police engaging the unarmed rescuers and it makes sense to highlight that act as one that would very likely get a Marine in Afghanistan today charged under the Law of Land Warfare. Cue snarky but brilliant infographic from Jesse Davis.

Davis doesn’t seem to realize that the Geneva Conventions are part of International Humanitarian Law, which specifically regulates the conduct of actors in armed conflict.  The conduct of the police at Oakland, as an expression of the relationship between “the government and the governed,” is regulated by Human Rights Law (to date, the US has not mustered the leadership to ratify the First Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which gives individuals the right, after having exhausted all domestic remedies, to pursue claims against State Parties before the UN Human Rights Committee–but that’s another story).

However, far from undermining Davis’ point, the distinction between the Geneva Conventions and Human Rights Law underscores the lack of respect for humanity inherent in engaging peaceful protestors with deadly force.  Under the Geneva Conventions, which do not prioritize the right to life and security, the actions of members of the San Francisco Sheriff Department (ohbytheway, there’s a reward being offered for the identity of the officer who is responsible for Olsen’s injury) might be considered a war crime.  Domestic police operating against peaceful protestors are normally subject to much stricter protections of the right to life–and for really excellent reasons–but the individuals responsible for this incident would seem to view themselves as above that obligation.

Also, see Reddit comment from “SawOnPoint,” who claims to be a Marine with “special operations training in riot control,” which perhaps means that he trained with a MEU (SOC):

Before gas goes into a crowd shield bearers have to be making no progress moving a crowd or crowd must be assaulting the line. Not with sticks and stones but a no bullshit assault. 3 warnings must be given to the crowd in a manner they can hear that force is about to be used. Shield bearers take a knee and CS gas is released in grenade form first to fog out your lines because you have gas masks. You then kick the canisters along in front of your lines. Projectile gas is not used except for longer ranged engagement or trying to steer the crowd ( by steering a crowd I mean firing gas to block a street off ). You also have shotguns with beanbags and various less than lethal rounds for your launchers. These are the rules for a WARZONE!!

There are hundreds of comments on the Reddit thread entitled How I feel, as a United States Marine, about what occurred in Oakland, which was apparently created by this guy:

Not a group I'd advise anyone anywhere, armed or otherwise, to get on the wrong side of.

The use of CS projectiles and flashbangs against a crowd that posed zero threat is an act of lawlessness and cruelty.  The incident at Oakland created pandemonium where a peaceful, if not terribly submissive, crowd was merely standing around. The unprovoked use of munitions capable of causing an injury on the order of Scott Olsen’s is an indefensible attack on the public safety that the police are charged to protect. The further use of flashbangs to deter the transparently nonthreatening individuals rendering aid to a collapsed civilian is yet more offensive to our common humanity.  None of it should be tolerated–in this instance or ever again.  Police brutality is not the focus of the 99%, but Scott Olsen sacrificed his personal safety in an attempt to help the many among us who have lost their jobs and homes and livelihoods at the hands of the 1% who are proud of, even amused by, the result of their actions.  I hope others will join me in working to ensure that his effort was not in vain.


  1. […] attack on Scott Olsen and his rescuers at Occupy Oakland is what got vets’ attention, but […]

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