At Occupy Oakland Crackdown, Oakland PD Put Iraq War Vet in Critical Condition

Last night, I gazed in horror at my computer as I watched cops fire flashbang bombs, rubber bullets, and tear gas upon peaceful protestors at Occupy Oakland. I couldn't help but think how the police response, or perhaps better said attack, resembled a war zone. Photographs show several military personnel at the action, and for those who had served time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and especially those with PTSD, the experience must have been a horrific reminder of the atrocities they witnessed abroad. 

For one Iraq War vet, the scene may have become all too real.  After being shot in the face by a "police projectile," a canister from tear gas or a flashbang bomb, Scott Olsen, 24, is in critical condition.  He does not breathe on his own; a respirator at Oakland’s Highland Hospital does that for him. 

The videos of his injury (below) are heartbreaking.  The victim is lying in the street, bleeding from the face.  Demonstrators run to help him, and a cop tosses a canister at the crowd gathering around the injured vet.  It explodes. Carried out by a  group of organizers, Olsen emerges from a cloud of smoke, bleeding from the head, his eyes in a daze. His body is limp, with his arms dangling above his face.  When they scream "what's your name?" he can't respond. His hand moves, but his eyes stare straight ahead. The crew screams in horror "MEDIC!! MEDIC!!!" 

A disturbing addition to the horrific image is the marine jacket he wears. Olsen served two tours in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.  His friend, Keith Shannon, served alongside him, and told the Huffington Post: "We both came out against the war." Shannon also told the Huffington Post that Olsen had been attending Occupy San Francisco events and had answered the call to join Occupy Oakland in solidarity. "He doesn't agree with the way the banks aren't regulated, the way they drove the economy in the ground. He wants there to be regulation of the banks," Shannon said. 

For Olsen, his opinions on the economy were enough to land him in the hospital, under very serious conditions. According to the Huffington Post:

"Right now, he's under sedation," Shannon said. "He walked into the hospital." But soon after his arrival, Shannon said, doctors found that there was swelling in Olsen's brain and put him under. He did not get a chance to talk to his friend. "They are waiting for a neurosurgeon to examine him to see if he needs surgery or not," Shannon said. If he doesn't need an operation, he'll be moved to the intensive care unit. 

When reached at her Wisconsin home, Sandra Olsen, Scott's mother, told HuffPost that her son's condition was serious. "He has a head injury," she said. "They are still trying to figure it out with him. I don't want to tie up the phone line. He's not in the best shape."

That Olsen is a marine adds a dark undertone to the police brutality now characteristic of the Occupy movement. No military serviceman, or peaceful demonstrator, deserves to be subject to violence by the police, the very men and women whose role is to serve and protect (and whose jobs the Occupy movement fights for).

Watch the videos:

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at October 26, 2011, 11:37am

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