Oakland police, suited up in riot gear, cleared anti-Wall Street protesters from the sidewalks surrounding Oakland’s City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 24. The police invasion left a sea of overturned tents, protest signs and trash thrown around the plaza.
The backlash against Oakland PD has been enormous. Wednesday’s Twitter feed was full of people speaking out against how the police handled the situation. Many seemed to think the actions were brutal and excessive.
Most of the criticism has revolved around the injury of U.S. Marine Scott Olsen. Olsen was taken to the hospital in critical condition after he was reportedly shot in the head with a rubber bullet by Oakland officers. He has recovered well, but the outcry against the brutality has grown since the incident.
Oakland PD initially reported that no one was injured in the morning raid. However, once the story of Scott Olsen broke, the city immediately switched to damage control. It is still uncertain which side is telling the truth, but like most stories involving citizens taking on the government, the public tends to side with their own.
The constant media coverage has not made public relations efforts by Oakland officials an easy task. The negative light in which they have been cast has made their efforts nearly futile. After their initial report was proven false, officials compounded their error by immediately making another one. Instead of apologizing or trying to calm the situation, officials defended the extreme tactics used to disperse the crowd.
Oakland officials should accept that they made a mistake and release a public apology. The apology does not have to be for police brutality if they truly feel their officers did the right thing. They should apologize for any harm done to their city’s citizens and reputation. At this point the apology might be too late, but any change in their public relations approach would be more beneficial than how it has been handled it so far.