DA’s Frivolous Prosecution of Black Activist Comes on the Heels of Back to Back Exonerations of Black Oaklanders
Last year on May Day, a boisterous but mostly peaceful demonstration promoted by Occupy Oakland and other groups, was aggressively attacked by an OPD assault force. There really is no other way to describe the events [I wrote about that day here, and that attack in "Part 2"].
As the march, which had surged around the city center and lake, came back to Oscar Grant Plaza to plug back into the rest of the day’s events at around mid-day, the police suddenly rushed the crowd from behind, causing panic. In the ensuing confusion, the OPD targeted several individuals. As you can see from these photos, they were offensively brutal in the arrests–but in the case of Prince alone, they went the extra step of tazing him. I think that given that he was the only African American arrested that day, its definitely arguable the extra force was racially motivated.
I was in the crowd that day and absolutely no one posed a threat to any police officer. All of the protesters brought to the ground and arrested, were quite literally just standing there, except for one woman, who was rushed from behind and yanked from a bicycle.
Now, nearly a year later, Prince, has been picked up on a warrant for a charge generated by the arrest. Like so many arrested during actions of civil disobedience and protest, the district attorney has stacked charges on top of the initial ones, and failed to notify the accused of their arraignments.
For those like Prince, who already faced several charges, it didn’t occur to them that they would have to check in with the district attorney to see if even more charges would be stacked on. Despite the fact that the city and county complain about lack of legal resources and funds, they nevertheless generate extra arraignment hearings; knowing as well that these will likely result in warrants.
This behavior is typical of a DA focused on spectacle prosecutions for the viewing benefit of a law and order constituency. The DA almost never “dropped” charges against protesters, for example, throughout the last year and a half;’ rather they kept the charges open, and in some cases brought the charges months later. Again, this generated warrants, creating potentially dangerous situations for activists, given what we know about the habit of police of shooting first and asking questions later.
The DA”s behavior is even more absurd when considering the fact that the office has still not responded in any way to the recent exoneration of two Oakland residents who were arrested and convicted under the shoddiest and most racist police, judicial practices imaginable; no investigations, no studies, no reports about the fact that OPD and DA actions could produce such startling outcomes as the loss of a combined two decades of freedom for two wrongly accused Oakland citizens. Despite years of complaints and evidence that police and prosecution work are sorely racially biased when they are not incredibly lazy and incompetent, the DA continues on its course, with not a complaint from the City Council nor Mayor.
The DA also lacks the time to do all but the most cursory review of the shooting of Alan Blueford, reviewing police files and interviewing Miguel Masso, but doing no investigation of their own. Satisfied, the DA closed the book on Masso only five months after was opened.
What does the DA have time for? Politically motivated frivolous prosecutions against activists like that of the “Ice Cream 3′, who were disappeared into the county’s jails on bogus “hate crimes” charges that were eventually dropped. The DA had the time to target Chris Moreland, who committed the crime of embarrassing OPD Chief Howard Jordan with the truth about his violent police force. The DA has time for harassment of political activists who’ve been through the system like ‘Ghetto Prophet’, who spoke loud and proud at a recent Justice for Alan Blueford action, and hours later found himself being arrested on bogus charges. And the DA has time to prosecute activists like Prince–a father to be who nearly a year ago, helped create a farm out of UC-owned mismanagement and blight in Albany. It’s quite clear that one of the county’s overriding motivations is to intimidate activists like these and others. Remarkably, almost everyone of these people disappeared into the local justice system were people of color, African Americans targeted because of their activism.
The math is simple and striking here. The DA and police want Oakland’s marginalized people to develop an ingrained fear of speaking openly about the city and county’s malfeasance. And they want the natural outcome of that fear to be the ceding of political activism and the public sphere to the socially connected and affluent, so that the mayor and council can always describe uprisings as the work of “unconnected outside agitators”. So that the city’s poorest and most marginalized people will even begin to believe that getting out in the street is something that only rich, white people will do. Something that only the white, affluent people can do.
We say no.
One last thing. Despite the fact that it shouldn’t matter by half if Prince were the most unpleasant guy I’d ever come across in my travels, I have to say it’s extremely shocking to see someone like that brutalized and maligned by the police for standing around at a constitutionally protected activity. I worked alongside Prince one morning at the Farm Occupation in Albany converting the ad hoc rickety chicken coop into an ad hoc rickety petting zoo for a bunch of kids. He was one of the warmest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and someone who’s had to overcome some pretty serious obstacles on top of it. The reality that this father-to-be may have to miss his child’s birth because he’s in jail on this bullshit is beyond tolerable.
Here’s a clip of Prince talking about his participation in the great Occupy the Farm action in Albany last year around this time. Its worth listening to, to get an idea of the kind of positive energy and enthusiasm that the DA seeks to silence.
On Tuesday, March 19th, 2013 the Oakland Police Department sent ten officers to Prince’s home to make good on their warrant. With their rifles drawn, the officers surrounded his home before entering and removing him from his bedroom in handcuffs. Prince’s warrant came from a court date where a third charge, PC 69, (threatening an officer) was added by the Alameda District Attorney’s office without notice.
With his first child expected to be born within the month, Prince needs all of our support so he can be home and ready to embark on fatherhood, rather than battling the legal system because he decided to stand up for what he believed in. A better world for the next generation, is that too much to ask?
During the 2012 Mayday protests in Oakland, the OPD switched up it's normal crowd control tactics and sent in 'snatch squads' to remove people who they perceived to be planning unlawful actions. Without any warning, groups of officers marched in formation directly through the crowd in search of their targets, as you can see in the below video. Prince was one of the activists to be targeted and arrested early in the day. More than three officers assaulted Prince, before one used their tazer to bring him down. It's more than clear that there was no reason for any of these arrests to be made, as no illegal activity (on the part of the protesters) was taking place. Prince was held for 72 hours, brutalized, and released with no charges. The DA quietly filed charges later, and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Two of the officers involved in Prince's brutal arrest on MayDay have been identified as Officer Fukuda and Officer W. Burke. Officer Burke was seen on Mayday, multiple times, pointing his rifle at people in the crowd, and waving it around carelessly. Officer Burke was also fired at one point, for falsifying search warrants, but was rehired in arbitration.
He is currently facing three felonies and a misdemeanor from his arrest at the May 1st General Strike, and is in dire need of support for bail, commissary, legal fees, and communication costs of Global Tel Link.
Prince is being held on $25,000 bail, which may change depending on whether the DA adds or drops charges at his arraignment on Thursday, March 21st, 2pm at Wiley Manuel Court in Dept 112.
Please donate, tweet #FreePrince, come to his court dates, visit him in jail, and write him Letters:
Hasheem Bason BIT300
Santa Rita Jail
5325 Broder Blvd.
Dublin, CA 94568