Returning for the first time to Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland, where the eviction of peaceful Occupy Oakland demonstrators on October 25th eventually resulted in his critical injury at the hands of a member of the Oakland Police Department's multi-agency task force, Scott Olsen gave his first interview this week since his recent release from the hospital. [Video posted at bottom of article.]
The 24-year old, two-tour Iraq vet and former U.S. Marine was struck by a projectile, believed to have been a CS gas canister fired by a law enforcement official, as he stood with other peaceful Occupy Oakland demonstrators just before police opened fire on them.
Contrary to a statement given by the OPD's Interim Chief Howard Jordan on the night of the confrontation with demonstrators in Oakland, so far no evidence has emerged to support Jordan's claim that police “had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks.” In fact, a November 2nd analysis by The BRAD BLOG of video tape and eye-witness statements from that night suggests quite the opposite, that the police planned to fire on demonstrators before there was any sign of violence by protesters.
The action which resulted in Olsen's injury, as we reported, would be in apparent violation of both state law and a federal consent decree signed by the OPD after similar violence against anti-war protesters in 2003. Following our report, the OPD somewhat walked back Jordan's so far evidence-free remarks to the media following the assault.
In the video interview, Olsen displays a remarkable memory of the events of the night —- particularly given the bloodied, apparent state of shock he was seen in as he was carried off by fellow demonstrators shouting “Medic! Medic!” in video tapes of the incident.
As seen in the interview, he also now has trouble with his speech, thanks to the damage sustained to the left frontal lobe of his brain, according to David Id, who posted the interview on Monday at the East Bay Indy Media website.
Olsen tells Id that his condition has been improving. We'd say remarkably so, given the injury he sustained just over one month ago, which sent him to the hospital in critical condition with a fractured skull and a swelling brain in the early morning hours of October 26th.
His indomitable spirit, evidenced throughout the short interview in which he offers a message to police, politicians and demonstrators alike, is remarkable as well, as he is seen smiling while responding to each of Id's questions, explaining what he recalls of that night in the moments both before and after he was shot…
“I took a step back and I walked across the right a little bit. I had my phone out. I was texting something to a friend of mine and next thing I know I'm down and on the ground and there are people above me who are trying to help me,” he says.
The responders trying to help him were momentarily waylaid as one of the law enforcement officials hurled an explosive canister amongst them as they were attempting to render aid, in another apparent violation of the Oakland PD Training Bulletin [PDF] created as part of the federal consent decree issued following similarly inappropriate behavior by the department in 2003 and 2005.
“They ended up carrying me away,” Olsen says about his fellow demonstrators. “I didn't want them to. I wanted to get up and stay there, pick up my bag, but they carried me away.”
“They asked me my name several times and I couldn't answer them. I couldn't answer what —- I don't know if I couldn't recall the answer or if I couldn't spit it out. But that's when I knew, yeah, okay, it's time to go. Time to let them take care of me.”
Olsen's failure to respond to those carrying him away —- as he is seen bleeding from the head with his eyes wide open —- is one of the more startling moments of the video taken the night he was shot. [That video, along with his Sunday interview, both follow at the end of this article.]
Asked to explain why he had come to join the demonstration that night, he says he received a call that people were needed in support of Occupy Oakland after the eviction from Oscar Grant Plaza that morning. He says when he was hit he was “standing up for our rights to exist here, with a veteran who was there with me, and all the people who were there. We were attacked and I ended up in the hospital that night.”
His friend was navy veteran Joshua Shepherd who, he says, he met via Iraq Veterans Against the War after moving to the Bay Area. Shepherd is seen in a remarkable piece of video tape, standing without a gas mask amidst rising clouds of CS gas, holding a VeteransforPeace.org flag in one hand and clutching an open copy of the U.S. Constitution in the other, as he stood stone still, staring at the law enforcement agents on the other side of the barricade they'd created at 14th and Broadway that night.
About his recovery process, Olsen says, “It was a very frustrating process. Initially, I couldn't form any words. I couldn't make any words. But initially, like, my brain was all pretty much there. I'd have brain farts more often than everybody normally does, but mentally I was there. I just couldn't spit these things out of my mouth.”
“They worked hard with me to get me better and I am doing much better than when I look at myself a month ago which was two days after the attack, ya know, I was not doing good,” he says with a laugh. “But now I'm doing a lot better from then.”
Olsen says he expects a full recovery, but that he doesn't know for sure.
Asked if he had any comments in regard to the police, and whether they may have been aiming at him, since their rules and procedures forbid that, Olsen says he's “kind of waiting to see what they're going to say about themselves in their own investigation. To see if they have the integrity required of them.”
“You would think something like this wouldn't take too long to find out who was responsible, but it's been over a month,” Olsen says. “How long does it take to see who fired this at me?”
He adds that he's not been interviewed by the police investigators said to be looking into the incident yet and has not been contacted by anyone from the District Attorney's office. Id notes in his report that “There is no known investigation from Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office and Scott has not decided whether he will pursue civil action against Oakland authorities for his injury.”
When asked what he might like to say “to politicians or the Chamber of Commerce or to Occupy Oakland,” Olsen responds as he flashes another smile along with a peace sign, “To all of them, I would have to say, stay peaceful, because that's what this is about. It's about working together. Working with one another. And it's about being open with each. And that's how we can solve our problems.”
* * *
David Id's 11/27/11 interview with Scott Olsen at Oscar Grant Plaza follows below…
These two short videos document Olsen's injury on the night of 10/25/11 at the intersection of 14th and Broadway, the second one highlights the exploding object among the first responders as they attempted to render aid to Olsen…
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