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Police Being Sued for Violent Crackdown on Occupy Oakland

The suit is an attempt to compel Oakland police to follow their own crowd control guidelines.

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“I was out there that night, but I wasn't interested in a confrontation with the police,” he told AlterNet. “I didn't want to be arrested, I didn't want to engage in violence or property destruction – I was simply out there as a supporter of Occupy Oakland and as a 'citizen-journalist.' I was tweeting and taking photos and providing news from the ground."

Campbell was removed from the heart of the action when the incident happened. “At the location where I was shot, there were no confrontations or provocations or violence going on whatsoever,” he said. “There was really nothing to cause concern on the part of the police officers.” 

“There were at least two dozen police officers,” explained Campbell. “I approached the line, and an officer told me to step back.” On the video, you can hear him ask twice, “is this OK?” He got no response, assumed he was at an acceptable distance from the police, and then suddenly found himself writhing in pain. “It was an incredible shock – I didn't actually see the officer lift his weapon as I looked through the viewfinder of my camera. I just saw the flash and then instantly felt a severe pain in my leg.” Campbell said the projectile went through his pants, created an open gash an inch and a half long on his upper thigh, sustained bruising and a “large welt” that impaired his movement for several days.

The shooting was an act of punishment – basically the definition of an illegal use of excessive force. Another protester, shot at random, tried to escape by moving past the police line. According to the suit, “when he asked police why they were shooting at him, he was shot again. He was hit at least 8 times with beanbags, rubber bullets or pepperballs, causing pain, swelling, bruising and bleeding.”

The lawsuit asks for an emergency injunction against the OPD restricting its use of force against protesters and mandating compliance with its own crowd control manual. According to Linda Lye, because the crowd control manual was the result of a civil settlement, it represents “an explicit contract between law enforcement and the citizens of Oakland." She said a breach of contract claim was part of the suit.

The case is currently before United States District Court Judge Richard Seeborg, who ordered the city to respond by 5pm Tuesday. If the injunction is granted, and OPD were to continue to use the same tactics in upcoming actions, the department could be held in contempt of court.

Meanwhile, Scott Campbell is still recovering from his injury and intends to continue documenting the actions of Occupy Oakland. But the violence he experienced has had an effect. “I wish it weren't the case,” he told me, “but it's definitely made me more fearful of going out there, especially when I see riot police. It does concern me about going out there in the future – I'm more anxious, more hesitant, and when the situation gets tense, then I'm more inclined to leave than I typically would be.”

Video: Scott Campbell is shot with a less-lethal projectile.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.