OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Former Oakland City Councilmember Wilson Riles was arrested earlier this week for battery on a police officer, but he is fighting back against those charges, saying he is the one that was assaulted.
The 73-year-old former councilmember says the situation escalated so quickly that before he knew it, he’d been tackled, handcuffed and was under arrest.
Riles says the incident occurred as he was leaving Oakland’s Planning and Zoning Department on Thursday when he was confronted by four or five Oakland police officers in the hallway.
“He took a stance to block me. I tried to squeeze around him. And at that point, he moved around and grabbed me,” Riles said. Riles had cuts visible on his arms, which he said were the result of officers forcing him to the ground and handcuffing him.
Riles was charged with battery on a police officer. Oakland Police did not return requests for comment on the case.
“I hadn’t threatened anybody. I hadn’t put my hands on anybody. I was angry. But I hadn’t physically approached or threatened anybody. I was leaving out of frustration,” Riles said.
Riles was at City Hall to discuss a years-long battle with the city over a sweat lodge used for Native American religious ceremonies and temporary structures that Riles’ family built in their backyard.
Patricia St. Onge, Riles’ wife, believes the officers overreacted.
“Some people are allowed to raise their voice and be volatile. And some people are not. Black people, in particular, are seen as scary as soon as they get angry. They’re seen as threatening and all of that,” St. Onge said.
“It’s part of an officer’s job to de-escalate tense situations. There was no effort to de-escalate this situation,” Riles said.
Riles said he has a court appearance scheduled for Nov. 18 in which he plans to ask for the battery charge to be dropped. He is out of custody on $20,000 bond.