Valley man settles with Oakland

03/13/2014

Robert Ovetz, a history and politics professor at the College of Marin and a Woodacre resident, won a $48,500 settlement from the City of Oakland this week after filing a federal lawsuit alleging that police threw him to the ground and beat him during an Occupy protest in 2012. According to the lawsuit, Dr. Ovetz attended the Occupy Oakland protest on Jan. 28 as an observer to research for a book about why American protest movements have turned violent. He was caught in a crowd of nearly 400 people in front of a Y.M.C.A. on Broadway when police “corralled” and arrested them en masse without ordering them to disperse, he said. Mr. Ovetz claims an officer punched him in the face, breaking his glasses and damaging two of his teeth, before he was thrown to the ground. He maintains that he told officers he was not resisting arrest and followed their instructions. A video documents a police officer striking him with a baton while he is facedown on the pavement. Dr. Ovetz was held in jail for three days and charged with felony assault on an officer and two misdemeanors. The district attorney later dropped all of the charges. Mr. Ovetz filed a lawsuit in December 2012, claiming he “suffered physical and emotional injuries due to being unlawfully detained, arrested, criminally prosecuted and having excessive force used against him.” After court-ordered mediation during the fall, the city agreed to pay Dr. Ovetz and post a press release on its website for 180 days. “The City of Oakland denies any and all wrongdoing and liability, but has determined that it is in the City’s best interest to settle the case,” the statement said. The city has paid $645,000 to settle with one Iraq War veteran who says his spleen was ruptured after being beaten and $1.17 million to resolve 12 other Occupy-related claims. Another eight still have a case unsettled for the mass arrest and detention in front of the Y.M.C.A. in Jan. 2012. Mr. Ovetz is seeking a determination of factual innocence, which the city said as one of the settlement terms it will not oppose.