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Palo Alto Police Fired Tear Gas at Oakland Occupy Protest

PAPD answers call for mutual aid, won’t answer questions about involvement.

UPDATE: This version includes new details throughout.

Palo Alto Police officers detonated tear gas cartriges Tuesday night during a tumultuous and violent clash with Occupy demonstrators, police confirmed.

"We did fire CS gas, yes," said Palo Alto Police Officer Kara Apple. "It was at the direction of Oakland police, after officers at various different locations started taking on bottles and rocks."

In an exclusive interview with Palo Alto Patch, Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns confirmed Wednesday that his office responded to a Mutual Aid Request by Oakland police by sending officers.

The group included ten crowd-control specialist officers, two lieutenants, one dispatcher, and the center, or MEOC, which came with a driver and communications specialist.

Apple said that the tear gas used Tuesday night was a non-explosive variety.

"They’re not blast type devices," she said. "The gas burns internally and then comes out of the devices as a smoke. They are not designed to explode."

The clash between demonstrators and police in Oakland became a national story after 24-year-old Iraq veteran Scott Olsen was critically injured after reportedly being hit in the head by a tear gas canister.

The Marine Corps corporal was transported to Highland Hospital and remains in critical condition with head wounds and brain swelling.

Apple said that none of the devices used by Palo Alto police in Oakland seemed to have malfunctioned.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said yesterday that tear gas was necessary to defend police from demonstrators.

"We had to deploy gas to stop people from throwing rocks and bottles at police," he said.

Numerous attempts to reach Oakland police were unsuccessful.

Palo Alto’s police department was one of 18 agencies that reportedly responded to Oakland’s request for mutual aid.

Palo Alto Police Officer Kara Apple said that the decision to respond to a mutual aid request can rest in the hands of a sergeant, all the way up the chain of command.

"There’s a lot to consider, depending on what’s being requested," she said, adding that availabilty of resources and the urgency of the request are major factors. In the case of the Oakland occupation, "I can tell you a sergeant didn’t authorize it," she said.

Apple cautioned that details pertaining to the incident with Scott Olsen will likely remain unavailable, as there will probably be an investigation by Oakland police into the matter that would prevent her from commenting.

Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa and Council Member Pat Burt were not immediately available for comment.

josh October 27, 2011 at 05:41 AM
That video is insane of the vet getting shot. Someone mentioned earlier that it may have been shrapnel that hit the guy. Are there any reports that say if it was a bullet or just shrapnel?
Aaron Selverston October 27, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Josh, no official confirmation yet about the cause of Scott Olsen's injuries. Most eyewitness accounts say it was either a tear gas cartridge or a flash-bang grenade.
e October 27, 2011 at 07:35 PM
As usual, i support people doing their job and cooperating with others doing their job. If Palo Alto has a problem, and issues a Mutual Aid request, then i hope that Oakland police will help us out. But, the morality of the situation ALWAYS has to be taken in to account. You can't just say you "were following orders". Was it really necessary to act like storm troopers to "clean" the park where Occupy Oakland was? The whole complaint was that there was dirt and "bedbugs" in the encampment. Really? That justifies violence to peaceful, if "dirty" protestors? This is America and we have to recall that the Revolution was fought for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It's 2011 people... wake up!
Peter Hogness November 15, 2011 at 04:42 AM
As a graduate of the Palo Alto schools, I'm glad to have received an education that encouraged critical thinking and asking questions. So I am surprised and disappointed that the actions of Palo Alto police in Oakland have not sparked more public controversy, or even curiosity. Perhaps it just hasn't been well reported, or perhaps there's widespread discontent with these actions among Palo Alto residents, but they have yet to voice it in a clear & effective way. (That's very possible-- of 230 people who've so far responded to a "poll" question on the Palo Alto Patch website, about 80% disapprove of the use of Palo Alto police against Occupy Oakland demonstrators.) I would like to know: ** Is it Palo Alto city policy to assist in police action against citizens in other cities who are exercising their First Amendment rights? ** Do Palo Alto's elected officials exercise any advance oversight or control of the use of Palo Alto police against political protest in other jurisdictions? ** Why has the Palo Alto Police Department refused to provide basic information about its deployment in Oakland, including the number and type of projectiles fired, the cost of the operation, and exactly who authorized it? I hope that Palo Alto residents will demand some answers. _____________________________________ Some have asked whether Palo Alto police fired the projectile that injured Scott Olsen. Here’s a summary of relevant press reports: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/printhead

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