Oakland Cops Can't Be Bothered With OWS Vehicular Assault

The Occupy movement has added a new layer to the battle for the public right of way.

In many cities where protesters have asserted their constitutional right to assemble, law enforcement has intervened swiftly, even violently, the moment demonstrators get in the way of the movement of motor vehicles. We saw it when hundreds of protesters were arrested the second they interfered with traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Or when NYPD pepper sprayed young women in their attempt to keep a crowd confined to the sidewalk.

Watch how quickly things escalate in this video when an Occupy Oakland protest enters the public roadway.

The official response? As Network blog Systemic Failure points out, although the victims filed a police report, and the video evidence speaks for itself, Oakland Police have not pursued charges against the driver. The two protesters pictured in the video, Lance Laverdure, 29, and Margaret So, 36, suffered internal injuries and a broken ankle, respectively.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

BART police, who were first on the scene, briefly interviewed the driver, decided he wasn’t drunk and let him go. Then they turned over the investigation to Oakland police.

As of Friday, however, Oakland police had not contacted So or key witnesses, attorneys for So and Laverdure said at a news conference where they showed video footage of the incident.

“As you can see, this is not a hard crime to solve,” said Laverdure’s attorney, Simona Farrise.

Systemic Failure compares this case to an incident earlier just last month where a firefighter was a victim of vehicular assault — the suspect was immediately arrested and charged with three felonies including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Elsewhere on the Network today: New Jersey Future writes that the state is threatening to weaken its successful, money-saving Transit Villages program. Riding in Riverside reflects on the sense of empowerment that comes with cycling for transportation. And Urban Adonia shares some of the latest anthropological examinations of America’s warped transportation culture.

  • Eric McClure

    How the hell does that not warrant, at the barest minimum, an aggravated assault charge? Sadly, the surprise is that the Oakland PD didn’t charge Laverdure and So for banging on the guy’s hood.

  • The Truth

    There is no credible way to refuse filing charges.  They need to take a very hard disciplinary look at the officers who declined to arrest the individual as well. 

    I would be fine with charging Ho and Laverdure with banging on the car as well, for whatever minor misdemeanor that would be. 

  • The Truth

    I think I would charge as attempted murder.  There needs to be a clear message that you can’t attack people with your car!

    Plus, it gives you room to plead down.  Aggravated assault might be a reasonable outcome, but I think it’s too low as a going-in position!

  • anonymous

    Hey, he angrily hit the guy’s car several times.  As an Oakland (or NYC police officer, I have the expertise and authority to inform you all that his “victim” automatically gets full legal authority to mete out any punishment whatsoever.

  • Sam Rockwell

    This a false and absurd statement of the law from a law enforcement officer (not exactly the type of person we want to have fuzzy notions of legality). There is absolutely NOT a grant of legal authority to “mete out any punishment whatsoever.” True, one can use force in defense of property, but that force must be proportional and must ONLY be used to prevent injury to the property (see California’s penal code section 693 and New York penal code section 35.25). In California and New York, you are not allowed to use deadly force. Use of a car as a weapon is just that. This was an inexcusable and illegal use of force and the driver should be prosecuted. Concededly, the protester can be prosecuted as well.

  • Boy that is crazy that someone would suggest it is ok to hit and potentially kill someone with your car because they banged on your hood. I don’t know why I am surprised but still.

  • Reggie

    Perhaps this incident makes a different argument as well:  For their own safety, law enforcement is well advised to keep protesters who lack parade permits out of public roadways.

    “I am angry about social and economic inequality in America so I have the right to stop you from driving on a public street.”  That is absurd, although not as absurd as, “You prevented me from driving down a public street, so I assaulted you with my car.”

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree. It is mind-blowing that we are so car-centric that we think somebody banging on your hood warrants being killed (as that is after all what the motorist attempted to do). The fact that people can’t see how wrong and disproportionate this action was gives credence to the severe car addiction from which our society suffers.

    And the bias of the street cops to anybody but motorists is just unbelievable and never ceases to amaze me. We need some serious retraining of our police forces to teach them that pedestrians and cyclists, as vulnerable road users, must be protected at all costs.

    Finally, if the DA won’t press charges against his motorist, then I really hope these two see him in civil court. That’s the least this guy deserves.

  • Anonymous

    It probably should be assault but there are also mitigating circumstances.  I think it’s very reasonable to think the driver might have felt that he was in imminent danger.  But his reaction was not really proportional.  He accelerated to so hard that it’s hard to argue that there was not some aspect of “getting back” at the guys.  But it’s hard to say what he was thinking/feeling at the time.

    I try to think what I would have done and I probably also would have tried to get out of there but I’d like to think I would have tried to inch forward rather than just floor it.

  • car free nation

    My idea is that the occupy people should throw a car-rally near wall street. Each car should have a little poster in the window. If anyone stops them, they just say they’re looking for parking.

  • David

    Noone living in Oakland is surprised.  It may just be time to allow criminal prosecution by the victims.  

  • I think it was the driver that initiated the aggression, pulling up very closely and honking in a threatening manner. The driver was never in any danger, physically and it would be irrational for him to believe he was, unless the pedestrian had some type of weapon. He’s inside a two-ton motorized case, for pete’s sake.

  • J

    If this driver is not charged, then pedestrians should be given the right to smash the windows of cars that fail to yield in crosswalks. Cyclist should be legally allowed to slash tires of cars who cut them off and park in bike lanes. No one (really) wants that. This simply cannot stand.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent analogy — really drives the point home of how utterly ridiculous it is that this motorist is not being prosecuted.

  • Anonymous

    I find it very hard to believe that the driver was initially being aggressive (i.e. driving fast with the intent to intimidate) rather than just trying to get clear of the that area before the larger mass of people you see coming towards him from his left reach him.

    I do think that the subsequent acceleration was clearly an over-reaction and was an assault (although like I said I think there’s a mitigating factor).

    I think it’s easy for you to say in the light of day without a mob around you and people banging on your car that the driver was never in any danger.  Yes, he’s in a car.  But with large groups of agitated people a situation can quickly escalate.  A rock or stick will easily break a car window.  And OWS Oakland is (and was at this point) well known to have some violent contingents.

  • anonymous

    Hey, I’m not really a cop; I was trying to be satirical.  I seriously regret that I made anyone think that an actual cop meant what I said.  Maybe some would, but my comment was completely fictitious.

  • anonymous

    Just to clarify as much as possible, my “he deserved it” comment below was NOT made by a real cop!

  • Anonymous

    @dawdler:disqus Assuming what you say is true and that the driver really was threatened, then his appropriate response would be to SLOWLY keep pushing forward into the guy in front of the car so as to give him time to move, not to floor it. Given how few people were right next to the car and how nobody seemed to be acting aggressively (ie, no one is wearing masks, or carrying weapons, or throwing anything), it is indefensible in my mind that that motorist was thinking of anything other than anger and revenge for possibly having his car dented. It is a sign our of our addiction to cars that we ever think a possible hood dent warrants someone’s maiming or even execution (then again, most people are so obsessed with making sure their car is in mint condition that they completely forget the point of it is to get dirty and dented protecting you and your stuff so you don’t have to).

    Further, let’s just say that this motorist really did think as you say and truly thought his safety was in imminent danger. Then guess what? He made a poor judgement and he needs to pay the price. Just like the cop at UC Davis pepper-spraying non-violent and seated protestors, you sometimes have to make a call on the spot. And if you do and it’s the wrong one, you need to accept responsibility for your actions and pay the price. No matter what this motorist thought, he made a poor choice and he must accept responsibility for that poor choice.

  • 94103er

    You were a bit sloppy in execution, but the satire wasn’t that hard to detect. Come on now, do we really think a cop knows how to embed links in comments?

  • Anonymous

    The pedestrian banged on the hood because the car kept edging forward, hitting him in the legs.  It was self-defense to bang on the hood. Next time the pedestrian should drag the driver out of the car, push him face down into the street and make a citizens arrest for felony assault.

  • anonymous

    Again, I’m sorry my satire wasn’t clear.  I am NOT a cop.  No real cop wrote what I wrote.  Jesus, the rare instance when I violate my personal rule of “don’t  make up, or share made up stuff, about groups of people,” and it totally blows up!  Lesson re-learned! 

  • Exactly — neither side is “in the right” here.  Obviously attempting to run somebody over is not justified by concern for your travel time or your car’s finish, but neither does the right to assemble and free speech grant free reign to do whatever you want.  Assault with a car is more serious, of course, and so should be prosecuted more urgently…

  • Anonymous

    From a legal perspective, the point of the article is clear – the police skirted their responsibilities to one of the parties in the situation, showing clear favoritism and playing the part of judge and jury.

    But reading through the comments, I’m a little surprised at how quickly people are willing to cry fowl on the part of the driver. From the video, this looks, more than anything, like a case of dueling bravado’s. I could not, in good conscience, defend either party in this incident any more than I could defend one of two chimpanzees beating the crap out of each other over a banana. We are animals, and a lot of us still act like it.

    I’d rather not have this incident be the poster-child for aggressive driving and poor law enforcement. It’s too convoluted. Both of these guys acted out of flaring machismo, one of them got hurt.

  • You don’t have to tell a cyclist or a pedestrian that the police isn’t on his side. But the reason for this is clear. It’s that the police are wedded to their vehicles. They are cars with human appendages. They will always side with a motorist because they’re of the same tribe. Example: I’ve tried to call the local authorities’ attention to safety problems in my neighborhood; cars speeding and disregarding stop signs. Their response? They send a car, that drives through once a day, the deputy doesn’t see anything, and reports back no problems. I’ve witnessed this. My protests that this is not the way to catch offenders falls on deaf ears because I’m not part of their tribe. If we don’t get the police separated from their cars they will never sympathize with us. They’ll always sympathize with the motorist. The end.

  • Such “dueling bravado” is indeed silly and annoying on both ends, but basically the driver, by wielding a very dangerous instrument carries much more responsibility.

    Maybe it sucks for his ego, but in such situations the driver has to back down first; if he’s not willing or is unable to do so, he shouldn’t be driving.

  • If you stand in the street long enough, you’ll get hit by a car.

    IF you block the street and smash? car hoods, you DESERVE TO GET HIT BY A CAR.

  • If you stand in the street long enough, you’ll get hit by a car.

    IF you block the street and smash? car hoods, you DESERVE TO GET HIT BY A CAR.

  • Urban Reason

    @angelaschmitt:disqus I can’t say I disagree, judging by my reading of the video, that your assessment of the initial aggression seems accurate. Though, without seeing the drivers face or body, it’s very very difficult to say whether or not his behavior was “aggressive” or simply attempting to let people know he was making his way through.

    But I can’t help but feel your perspective is a bit biased with regard to your statement that “…it would be irrational for him to believe that he was (in any danger), unless the pedestrian had some type of weapon.”

    While I do as much travel as I can by non-motorized means, I do also own a (rather crappy) vehicle, and on more than one occasion have felt I was in danger during unprovoked encounters with visibly unarmed pedestrians. Yes, I may have been surrounded by a one ton vehicle, but if a crazy guy walks up to my window unprovoked, behaving unpredictably and in a potentially violent manner, I don’t have my options for escape. Were a crowd of potentially unpredictable people is also surrounded me, I think that feeling might be heightened.

    It’s easy for me to blame the motorist, and I have certainly done it on many many occasions (most of them, I think, deserved). But I think it’s unempathetic and one-sided to discount the potential of the driver to feel threatened inside a vehicle.

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