Veterans now fight at home to defend Americans from U.S. human rights abuses
Human rights defender, Iraq Veteran Scott Thomas Olsen, 24, remains unconscious in critical condition with a fractured skull, brain swelling and brain damage risk after police allegedly shot him in the face at Occupy Oakland following a peaceful demonstration of over 1000 protesters exercising Fifth Amendment Rights on Tuesday that became under hostile attack by 500 Oakland and other police who turned downtown Oakland into a war zone of explosions, smoke and screaming. Earlier on Tuesday, Riot Police tore down Occupy Oakland’s encampment.
“This struggle has high stakes, I really respect the fact that Scott was standing up for what he believes in. He’s really passionate about social justice causes,” said Adele Carpenter, a friend of Olsen’s and member of Civilian Soldier Alliance.
Olsen was assaulted about the time a Tweet was sent asking President Obama to weigh in and stop the police assaults “before someone is killed.”
Iraq Veterans Against War issued a statement late Wednesday saying, “It’s ironic that days after Obama’s announcement of the end of the Iraq War, Scott faced a veritable war zone in the streets of Oakland last night. He and other protesters were surrounded by explosions and smoke (tear gas) going off around him as people nearby carried him while yelling for a medic.”
As he was carried off what appears to be a battle field, someone asks, “What happened? What happened?”
“He got shot!” another answered.
Protesters helping him frantically asked their peer, “What’s your name?” and when Olsen could not respond, it was yelled, “What’s your name!?” but Olsen’s eyes rolled back and he was unable to respond.
Iraq Veterans Against War stated, “This disturbing video of the incident shows how veterans are now fighting a war at home.”
(Watch on this page the embedded Youtube of Veteran Scott Olsen being hit in the battle at Oakland.)
A hospital spokesman confirmed Olsen, of Onalaska, Wisc. who recently moved to the San Francisco area, suffered the head injury at Occupy Oakland on Tuesday evening after hundreds of police officers strategically descended on the protesters and assaulted them with chemical weapons according to on the scene reporters and video coverage.
The Berkeley Daily Planet reported that Berkeley Police participated in “the assault” on Occupy Oakland. The Oakland Tribune also reported outside police agencies, including from Berkeley and UCPD, were called to aid Oakland police.
An untold number of injuries and over 15 people were arrested after over 1000 gathered to demonstrate against the police operation to clear two Occupy Oakland camps in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Jay Finneburgh, a photographer covering the protest, published pictures of Olsen lying on the ground, stated, ”This poor guy was right behind me when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. He went down hard and did not get up.”
(See the slideshow on this page of dramatic photos that Bay Area Indy Media posted of Scott being cared for and escorted to safety right after he was hit.)
After comrades yelled for a medics to no avail, Olsen was taken to Oakland Hospital by some of the protesters.
“The Guardian spoke to people with Olsen at the hospital. Adele Carpenter, who knows Olsen through his involvement with anti-war groups, said she arrived at the hospital at 11pm on Tuesday night and she was told by a doctor there that “Olsen had a skull fracture and was in a ‘serious but stable’ condition. She said he had been sedated and was unconscious.””
“I’m just absolutely devastated that someone who did two tours of Iraq and came home safely is now lying in a US hospital because of the domestic police force,” Carpenter said.
Olsen, a Marine veteran, is a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, had just moved to Oakland in July.
The Guardian reported that Keith Shannon, 24, roommate and former Marine Corps colleague of Olsen in Iraq, went to the hospital after protesters contacted him through Facebook.
“He confirmed Olsen had a fractured skull, and said he had been told by a doctor Olsen also had brain swelling.”
Shannon said that a neurosurgeon was to assess Olsen to determine if he needed surgery.
“It’s really hard,” said Shannon who works with Olsen in Daly City south of San Francisco. “I really wish I had gone out with him instead of staying home last night.”
Shannon who reportedly had seen the video footage of Olsen lying on the floor as a police officer throws an explosive device near him, said, “It’s terrible to go over to Iraq twice and come back injured, and then get injured by the police that are supposed to be protecting us,” he said.
Olsen served two tours of Iraq, in 2006 and 2007.
“Shannon said Olsen was hit in the head by a tear gas canister or smoke canister shot by a police officer. He said Olsen had a curved scar on his forehead consistent with a canister, ” the Guardian reported.
Shannon also told the Guardian that Olsen was unable to say his surname.
“Video footage published to YouTube shows Olsen lying prone on the ground in front of a line of police. Around 10 people gather around him in an apparent attempt to provide aid, before a police officer throws an explosive device into their midst, scattering the group.
The video footage of the incident appears to be show a flash bang grenade and Olsen being carried away by a group of people.
Writhing on the ground sobbing on Wednesday was 30-year-old Irish national man named Seamus who was “clutching a grapefruit sized bruise above his left hip,” according to Mercury News.
“He said he and Olsen had been together when Olsen was shot. Seamus said his bruise was the result of a police projectile. Other protesters gathered around Seamus and showed off small rubber buckshot pellets they said police had fired at them.”
Iraq Veterans Against War concur that Olsen is in serious but stable condition at an Oakland hospital.
“We have set up a medical fund to support any up-coming health needs he has,” they said.
Oakland police confirmed at a press conference Wednesday that they used tear gas and baton rounds, but denied using flash bang grenades. Police have been unable to be reached for comment.
Olsen is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who was discharged from military service with the Marines in 2010 after two tours in Iraq.
Iraq Veterans Against the War stated in their written statement Wednesday that Olsen is one among many veterans returned home and became involved in the Occupy protests taking place in hundreds of cities around the nation.
“Veterans like Scott recognize that they are part of the 99% who face uncertain economic futures, including few job prospects and rising tuition costs. Rates of homelessness and unemployment are higher for veterans than for their civilian counterparts.”
“Our members are flocking to these occupations,” said Joyce Wagner, Iraq Veterans Against the War Board President who has also been participating in Occupy Wall Street movement at Occupy Pittsburgh.
“The Occupy encampments are a great place to meet other veterans, network, and get veterans services. We’re actually bringing a VA social worker to our camp and have several older homeless veterans in our camp.”
One of Olsen’s friends who visited him in the hospital Wednesday and said, “It’s horrible what happened to him. We want people to come out and protest peacefully. Don’t go down to (the police) tactics,” referring to tear gas and rubber bullets according to Mercury News/Oakland Tribune.
“It makes you want to come out here and stand your ground.”
Olsen’s friends and acquaintances have said hospital officials told them Olsen risks brain damage.
Iraq Veterans Against the War is urging the public to tell Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to investigate this incident and allow peaceful protests to continue.
“IVAW also sends their thanks to the brave folks who risked bodily harm to provide care to Scott immediately following the incident.”
Learn more by doing: Click here to send Oakland Mayor Jean Quan an email message; call her office on (510) 238-3141; and/or post a message on her Facebook page. Donate to Scott Olsen’s medical fund to support his expenses.