Occupy Oakland Protesters Remain in Legal Limbo After Release From Jail

Nine protestors who were arrested during the police raid on Frank Ogawa Plaza early Tuesday morning were released Thursday afternoon after spending more than two days in jail.

Greg Michalec – a member with Occupy Legal, a volunteer group which has been working closely with the National Lawyers Guild – said the release was a positive sign.

“Usually what this means is that the District Attorney has reviewed the police reports and she either doesn't feel there is a strong enough case to prove the charges or she don't want to expend the resources to prosecute the case the police gave her,” Michaelec said.

However, a spokeswoman for Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in an email that the protestors remained in legal limbo.

“The DA's office is reviewing the police reports as well as any evidence and has not yet made a decision with regards to charging,” wrote Teresa Drenick.

According to the National Lawyers Guild, nearly 100 people were arrested Tuesday morning and illegally booked in Alameda County's Glenn Dyer Facility in downtown Oakland and the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

For reasons that are still unclear, some protestors were held for more than 12 hours after the mass arrest before being booked on charges ranging from disorderly conduct related to loitering to remaining on the scene of a riot, obstructing a police officer and battery on a law enforcement officer.

At the Santa Rita Jail, protestors who were charged with loitering began to be released after around 10 hours in custody. However, those who were accused of obstructing a police officer were told they were “keepers” and singled out for special treatment, which included being locked in concrete cells that were lit nonstop by bright fluorescent lights. The temperature of the cells was cool, and protestors huddled together for warmth.

During the night, “keepers” were prevented from sleeping by sheriff's deputies who entered the holding cell every few hours and demanded to know the names of the people in the cell. Anyone who refused to answer a deputy's question – or who questioned the legality of a question or who giggled during an interaction with a deputy – was thrown in “the hole,” or solitary confinement.

Deputies also transferred “keepers” from one cell to another throughout the night, ostensibly in order to clean the cells.

All the holding cells contained an open toilet at one end. In at least one case, the toilet was strategically positioned next to a window so that deputies and other jail employees could observing the prisoners while they were defecating or urinating.

In addition to the toilet, seating was provided by concrete benches, which lined one or two walls of the holding cells. In many cases, the holding cells were so crowded that protestors ended up sleeping on the concrete floor, which was covered with garbage.

Contact with the outside world was restricted to a phone that permitted collect calls only if the recipient of the call agreed to deposit $25 in a pre-paid account.

Food was limited. Protestors who were arrested at 7 a.m. were given two pieces of bread, a tube of peanut butter, a tube of jelly, two oreo cookies and an orange at 3:30 p.m. Protestors who asked for additional food were given identical meals throughout the next 24 hours.

One protestor, an 18-year-old girl who was accused of assaulting an officer, was singled out for special treatment and kept in the holding cell for more than 26 hours after her arrest before she was transferred to the main area of the jail. The girl, who was covered in bruises, said she had put her body between an officer and her 53-year-old mother during a melee at one of the barricades early Tuesday morning.

During the night of Oct. 26, sometime between 1 and 3:30 a.m., deputies could be heard beating a man in an adjacent cell. After the beating stopped, “keepers” watched from the window of a holding cell as the deputies carried the man down the hall.

Two keepers who made bail Wednesday morning between 7 and 11 a.m. were held for up to an additional eight hours while they were “processed.” During that time, the keepers were forced to wait in a series of rooms, including a room where one of the keepers was held in isolation and told that she would be picked up by a deputy sometime “before midnight” on Wednesday evening.

Both money and clothing that was confiscated during the booking process was “lost” by the jail.

Elise Ackerman, a member of Oakland Local's board of directors, was arrested on Tuesday morning for taking pictures in the aftermath of the raid. After being labeled a “keeper,” she bailed out of Santa Rita at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26.