Occupy movement at Stanford

Nov. 4, 2011, 2:55 a.m.

The spread of the “Occupy” movement to the West Coast–which included a heavily publicized police crackdown on protesters in Oakland last Tuesday–has involved both Stanford students and law enforcement officers from the Palo Alto Police Department (PD) and the Stanford Department of Public Safety.

Stanford Police in Oakland

Stanford sheriffs and Palo Alto PD officers were dispatched to Oakland last Tuesday in response to a “mutual aid” request from Oakland PD to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which asked police departments within the county for spare personnel. Oakland PD had requested assistance with crowd control in response to growing protests.

Police attempts to evict protesters from their camp in an Oakland city plaza on Tuesday, Oct. 25 resulted in sustained confrontations with the use of riot gear and less-than-lethal ammunition. According to city officials, 85 arrests were made and at least one protester, Marine veteran Scott Olsen, was critically injured.

William Larson, spokesman for the Stanford Department of Public Safety (DPS), said that five sheriffs–a sergeant and four deputies–were dispatched to the incident.

Palo Alto PD sent 10 officers trained in crowd control and tactics, two lieutenants and a staffed Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC), according to Sgt. Kara Apple of the Palo Alto PD. The city chief of police authorized the deployment from Palo Alto.

Approximately 100 officers were dispatched from Santa Clara County as a whole on the Oct. 25. At no point since then have Palo Alto PD officers been dispatched again to Bay Area “Occupy” protests, Apple said.

Protesters at Occupy Oakland threw “rocks, bottles and other objects” at Palo Alto PD officers, according to Apple, and Oakland PD reported officers being physically assaulted by protesters. No officers from Palo Alto PD were injured in the altercations.

Palo Alto PD does not arm officers with rubber bullets, but officers deployed “pepper ball” ammunition–less-than-lethal rounds loaded with pepper spray–against protesters. Apple said that “officers deployed CS gas under Oakland PD direction after coming under projectile fire” from protesters as well.

Apple added that the CS gas canisters were administered “correctly” without malfunction and had been thrown into areas away from protesters and flammable objects. Palo Alto PD CS gas canisters are manually deployed and designed to burn internally, emitting smoke without any explosion.

Students Protest

On Thursday, Oct. 27, several Stanford students attended the Occupy San Francisco protests in anticipation of a rumored police raid on the protesters’ campsite. Matt Walter ‘14 said that he saw at least four other undergraduates, in addition to a few recent alumni, in attendance at the event.

This was the second time Walter had visited the Occupy San Francisco campsite.

“The country is headed for a change in wealth distribution and corporate responsibility,” Walter said.

He noted that the protests offered a “once in a generation opportunity to participate.”

While the first time he had attended the protests had been the result of a friend’s encouragement, Walter expressed his interest in going back to a Bay Area Occupy protest in the future.

Walter described a “carnival-like atmosphere” at the Occupy campsites, with bands playing throughout the night in the midst of 40 to 50 tents. However, he added that there was also “a lot of sitting around and waiting.”

Despite the general discontent with the status quo among the protesters, he noted a “good amount of thrill seekers” embracing the occasion to protest. Nevertheless, Walter said that part of the power of the movement was its diversity.

“The range of demographics [among the protesters] was amazing,” Walter said.

Tensions rose sharply at the campsite on Thursday night as reports and photographs of police staging in riot gear trickled through the camp. Protest organizers had separated those who would be willing to risk police arrest from those who would not. Walter said, “It was clear what measures people would take” in the event of a police raid.

A large contingent of the protestors was “absolutely” ready to contest possession of the campsite with riot police, according to Walter.

“We had our masks on and vinegar to combat tear gas,” he said.

However the police decided not to raid the camp that night, which was the same night that several mayoral candidates and city supervisors visited the campsite.

Stanford’s role in the Occupy movement

The ASSU sponsored an open forum on Thursday night to discuss Stanford’s role in the Occupy movement. This roundtable occurred in the wake of a walkout staged by Harvard economics students in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The meeting, which occurred on Thursday night and had about 40 people in attendance, consisted of undergraduates, graduates and faculty members. Approximately half of the assembled group had attended at least one Occupy protest, with many having protested during the Occupy Oakland’s takeover of the city port on Nov. 2.

The group discussed future events at which the group could protest and develop the Occupy Stanford movement. Motivations for the Stanford protestors varied significantly, with individuals expressing their discontent with wealth inequality, corruption in government and business, social issues, government spending priorities and incidents–such as the Oakland PD crackdowns–that endanger “people’s right to be safe in their own city from those who purport to protect them.” Members highlighted the need to highlight social issues in the communities surrounding the “Stanford bubble” and make the Stanford community aware of ongoing injustices.

The group also sought to explore how the University fit into the debate, noting the need to tailor the Occupy movement’s message and methods to a Stanford community more closely linked to the “1 percent” than other locations targeted by Occupy protests. They also sought to establish a set of objectives for the Occupy Stanford movement unique to the University’s situation.

While the Occupy movement only arrived on campus with the walkout staged on Nov. 2, group members expressed their appreciation for a movement that offered an umbrella and practical template for addressing global issues and which, for them, “has already touched Stanford in a very real way.”

Marshall Watkins is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily, having previously worked as the paper's executive editor and as the managing editor of news. Marshall is a junior from London majoring in Economics, and can be reached at mtwatkins "at" stanford "dot" edu.

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