“My children are going to grow up without a father! Over what?!” shouted Sarah Schrader, longtime girlfriend of Jose Gutierrez and the mother of his two young children. She collapsed into her hands crying as friends rubbed her back, Oaksterdam University founder and Proposition 19 frontman Richard Lee at her side and jurors quietly streaming out of the courtroom.
On October 4, Jose Gutierrez was found guilty of assault on a federal officer, charges that carry up to eight years in prison. Gutierrez has until October 18 to appeal the verdict, if no appeal is filed he will be sentenced on January 10, 2014.
“They filed this charge [against Gutierrez] to protect themselves against a lawsuit for beating up Jose,” said J. Tony Serra, the lead attorney in Gutierrez’s defense. Edie Lerman, as well as Omar Figueroa and J. Tony Serra, both of San Francisco’s historic Pier 5 Law Offices represented Gutierrez pro bono.
Two days earlier, as Serra delivered closing arguments in the jury trial, the courtroom, mostly empty throughout the week-long trial, quietly filled up with United States Marshals. The marshals, deemed “essential” workers, working through the government shutdown and remaining on the federal payroll, sat on the jury’s side of the courtroom. The marshals rarely glanced toward the defense, but rather fixated on the jurors, who snuck glances their way. “They [the marshals] are here to psychologically persuade you,” Serra said.
A year and a half earlier, the IRS, DEA and US Marshals enacted a raid on Oaksterdam University, as well as other Oaksterdam district targets. Jose Gutierrez, a longtime activist and radio journalist with Berkeley Pacifica Radio affiliate KPFA was targeted and beaten by federal officers before being arrested.
Internal police documents show that officers had been following and targeting Gutierrez since he arrived at 8:00am on April 2, 2012 to the initial protest in front of the main Oaksterdam University building at 1600 Broadway. Gutierrez associated with a friend and fellow activist, already protesting on the scene who was identified immediately by federal officers. The other activist had brought a bull horn to lead protests until he was told he would need a permit to continue. He slipped away to Oakland City Hall and returned 15 minutes later with the permit. Documents show the officers began tracking and following Gutierrez in earnest at that point on.
Gutierrez was carrying a sign that read “Department of Injustice: BULLIES” and also wearing a bull mask across his nose. Police documents also show this was interpreted as a pig mask, he was thereafter referred to in these documents as “pig mask” or “pig man”, an interpretation thought to be a dig at police.
As the protests heated up, protestors surrounded the Coffee Shop Blue Sky, about a block from the main building at 1600 Broadway. Officers, who had not set a perimeter or exercised proper crowd control tactics, contacted US Marshals claiming they felt “trapped” inside. The crowd surged closer together. An aerial video taken from across the street shows officers using what is referred to as a “snatch squad”. Officers make a V towards Gutierrez and begin beating him. The crowd moves away from the door towards the action, within seconds the evidence is removed from Coffee Shop Blue Sky and the storefront is closed:
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