Oakland -- The city has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle claims from 12 Occupy protesters -- including a man who filmed a police officer who shot him in the leg with a lead beanbag -- injured during 2011 protests.
The City Council announced the $1.17 million settlement Tuesday night, resolving the first of several police misconduct lawsuits Oakland faces from Occupy protests.
In addition to the cash settlement, the city agreed to reform its crowd control policy and allow the federal courts to oversee its compliance with the policy for the next seven years.
Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild who represented the plaintiffs, praised city leaders for settling the case quickly and taking measures to prevent further misconduct.
"We hope that we will no longer have to keep bringing these lawsuits, but it's been a very long road with Oakland police, so it remains to be seen whether there will be compliance," she said.
All of the plaintiffs, including Oakland videographer Scott Campbell, were struck either by beanbags or flash-bang grenades fired by officers during Occupy protests on Oct. 25, 2011 and Nov. 2, 2011, Lederman said. Settlements ranged from $20,000 to $500,000. The biggest settlements were awarded to women struck by the grenades, which use loud noise and bright explosions to disorient people.
Campbell, who will receive $150,000, made international headlines when an Oakland police officer shot him in the thigh in the early morning hours of Nov. 3 during a protest near City Hall.
Campbell's videotape of the incident shows him asking police "Is this OK?" as he filmed a line of riot-gear-clad officers. An officer then is shown raising his weapon and firing the bean bag at Campbell, who cried out in pain.
Campbell called the settlement a victory because "it shows that police can't get away with the type of behavior and actions they committed against demonstrators."
The officer who shot Campbell, Victor Garcia, is currently assigned to the department's Operation Ceasefire anti-violence program.
Suzi Spangenberg, a 52-year-old divinity school student and Berkeley resident, will receive $500,000, which is the largest settlement in the case, Lederman said.
When she walked up to officers on Broadway during the Nov. 2 protest to say that she still loved them, Lederman said, two Oakland police officers threw grenades toward her and an Alameda County Sheriff's deputy shot her with a less-than-lethal projectile. The grenades, which landed by her feet, caused her hearing loss and permanent ringing in her ears, Lederman said.
Sukay Sow, a 19-year-old Oakland resident, will receive $210,000 after she sustained permanent scarring when an officer threw a flash bang grenade that landed on her foot.
The City Council had tentatively approved the settlement in a closed-door meeting last month and gave final approval without comment during its Tuesday meeting.
The settlement comes just one week after the city and Alameda County agreed to a $1.025 million settlement in a case brought by about 150 people arrested during a 2010 protest of the two-year prison sentence given to BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed Oscar Grant.
Both settlements require that Oakland police end their practice of sending protesters arrested for misdemeanor crimes to county jail, where several had been held for up to three days, Lederman said. Police must now process those arrested near the scene of the arrest and not subject them to lengthy detentions.
Oakland's legal bill from its handling of the 2011 Occupy protests is expected to grow. The cases of Scott Olsen, a Marine veteran struck in the head and seriously injured by a less-than-lethal projectile, and Kayvan Sabeghi, a veteran beaten by police during another protest, have not yet been settled.
Also unsettled is a class-action lawsuit filed by protesters who were detained and arrested outside the Oakland YMCA during a January 2012 protest.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435 or email@example.com