OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Nine parents and teachers plan to file a government claim against the Oakland Unified School District Friday morning — a precursor to a lawsuit accusing the district police department of using excessive force during an Oct. 23 school board meeting.
Cellphone video from the meeting shows officers clashing with parents and teachers, jostling over a metal barricade. The video also shows some demonstrators being arrested.
“When we started our protest, they descended upon us,” said Saru Jayaraman, a UC Berkeley professor, activist and author. “They threw me to the ground. They tore my ACL, MCL, meniscus and damaged my bone.”
Jayaraman is still on crutches and will undergo a reconstructive surgery next month.
“The doctor said, after the initial jolt, the other parts of my knee were damaged from carrying me out, dumping me on the floor, dragging me across the police car,” Jayaraman said. “They were very rough and unnecessarily so.”
Jayaraman has two daughters in the school district. She attended the Golden Globes as a special guest of Amy Poehler to highlight her work as a restaurant industry activist who, as director of UC Berkeley’s Food Labor Research center, has been working to help women bridge the wage gap.
“I’m a very small person, it doesn’t take four police officers to detain me,” Jayraman said. “And we were not armed. We were not dangerous. We had guitars and song sheets. We were about to sing ‘We shall overcome,’ There was no need for any of that.”
Jayaraman’s husband, Zachary Norris, is executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and he was also among the six people arrested that night.
“We were met on October 23 with a metal barricade, with violent police officers and we’re being charged,” Norris noted. “I’m being charged with incitement to riot, which I think is unfounded and unfair.”
The protesters are filing a federal lawsuit against the school district, claiming district officers used excessive force and violated the First- and Fourth-Amendment rights of the demonstrators. The first step in that process is the government claim they’ll file with the district on Friday.
Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said he could not comment because of the pending lawsuit.
“The police absolutely overreacted to the group of parents and teachers who were engaged in a very peaceful protest,” said civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, who is representing the parents and teachers filing the claim.
“One of the things we will find out as a result of the lawsuit is who made the decision to have the police go at the parents in such an aggressive way?”
“What happened was a teacher was knocked over by a police officer with a baton,” said Norris. “And then a number of parents said, ‘hey, what’s going on? Like, why would you do that?’ And they were also met by force and another parent was hit by a baton … and it’s my understanding that he had his ribs cracked.”
Before they file the claim Friday morning, the six people who were arrested are scheduled to go to a court hearing related to their arrests to find out if the district attorney plans to continue to pursue charges against them.