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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
Federal Suit Filed vs. Oakland Police for Brutality During Occupy Oakland March
Professor Beaten by Police Claims Constitutional Rights Violated
Robert Ovetz, Ph.D., a community college professor arrested observing the January 28th Occupy Oakland march, filed a federal suit in federal district court on Thursday December 5th against the Oakland Police Department. Ovetz’s suit claims that several of his constitutional rights were violated when he beaten, arrested, and jailed by Oakland police.
Ovetz was among nearly 400 citizens “corralled” and arrested without being ordered to disperse in front of the YMCA. Oakland Police were videotaped beating Ovetz after arresting him. After being punched in the face by police and having his glasses broken Ovetz was violently thrown to the ground and struck with a baton while on the ground. Oakland Police booked him on felony charges of assault on an officer. The Alameda County District Attorney rejected those charges but did file a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. Last Spring the misdemeanor charge was dismissed on motion of the prosecutor before trial.
Despite this, the City Attorney has refused to settle Ovetz’s claim of the use of excessive force by OPD Officer Martin. Oakland Chief of Police Howard Jordan and Officer Ercivan Martin are among the officers named in the suit.
According to the federal lawsuit filed today, Ovetz claims that “As a proximate result of Defendant’s conduct, Plaintiff suffered physical and emotional injuries due to being unlawfully detained, arrested, criminally prosecuted and having excessive force used against him.”
The lawsuit also claims his constitutional rights guaranteed by the 4th, 5th and 14th amendments were violated. Among these rights violated by the Oakland Police include the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to be free from the use of excessive force by peace officers, and equal protection under the law.
The charge dropped by the DA was “obstructing delaying or resisting an officer in the course of his duties,” a misdemeanor under California Penal Code section 148. Ovetz was initially charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor and jailed for 3 days.
Ovetz repeatedly informed the officers that he was not resisting arrest and did everything they instructed him to do, but was nonetheless beaten violently. Officers threw him to the ground and OPD officer Martin hit him with a baton twice. Ovetz suffered severe bruising on his body as well as injuries to his face, jaw and two teeth. Ovetz was taken to the emergency room for his injuries. Video of Ovetz being beaten while being thrown down and lying on the ground is available on YouTube at the link below. His bike was also thrown to the ground and damaged and his glasses were broken.
Ovetz was observing the Occupy Oakland effort to turn an empty building into a community center. He is writing a book into why protest movements have turned violent in US history.
OPD gave the media Ovetz’ mug shot and charged him with felony assault on a police officer to cover their own violent crimes as part of an effort to discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ovetz intends to file suit in order to clear his name and hold OPD accountable. Ovetz’s mug shot was reproduced on the San Francisco Chronicle website as well as other media outlets.
Ovetz’s wounds required an emergency room visit to Highland Hospital, repair to two teeth, and repairs to his bicycle. In jail he was denied prescribed medication, placed in a unit with inmates transferred from the state prison system, stripped searched numerous times, and denied a mattress and toothpaste.
There is at least one other federal civil rights lawsuit naming OPD officer Martin. OPD Internal Affairs’ investigation into Ovetz’s complaint is still incomplete.
o Copy of the federal lawsuit filing available by request.
o Interview with attorney Matthew A. Siroka by request.
o Video footage of Robert Ovetz being beaten by Officer Martin of OPD (start at 0:36) is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bezz-6Q09ng&feature=bf_prev&list=UU05htuFcXyMA432PrGR0nrQ&lf=plcp
o Photos of Ovetz’s wounds from being hit with a baton on his back are available by request.
Law Office of Matthew A. Siroka
mas [at] defendergroup.com