OAKLAND -- A proposed law would make it easier for police to arrest Occupy Oakland agitators by prohibiting them from possessing their weapons of choice at protests.
The proposal would make it a misdemeanor to bring a host of items to protests including shields, fire accelerant and pressurized paint sprayers that several Occupy members have used against police officers and on private property.
Rather than having to catch Occupy agitators in the act of damaging property or using the makeshift weapons, police would be able to arrest protesters they saw carrying the prohibited items, potentially weeding out agitators before protests get violent.
"It's not the end all be all, but it does provide an extra tool that makes it more likely that vandals will get arrested," said Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, who heads the council's Public Safety Commission that will take up the proposal on Tuesday.
Occupy Oakland member Mike King feared the law would give police greater latitude to search protesters and lead to even stricter prohibitions. "It's just a way of controlling and manipulating what should be constitutionally permitted forms of protest," he said.
Attorneys with the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild did not return calls Wednesday.
Major Occupy Oakland protests have been marred by vandals and agitators who have shattered windows with hammers, sprayed graffiti on store fronts and started fires on city streets.
During a Jan. 28 protest, agitators advanced on police lines with shields made of corrugated steel and earlier this month, protesters used fire accelerant to set a police car ablaze and a threw paint-filled projectile at riot police.
The ordinance, proposed by City Attorney Barbara Parker and modeled on similar laws in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, prohibits demonstrators from possessing clubs, accelerant, painting devices, paint projectiles, shields, sling shots, hammers or wrenches.
The prohibition does not include bottles, which Occupy protesters also have pelted police with during skirmishes.
Several council members had recently inquired whether the city could approve a law prohibiting any item that could be fashioned into a weapon. But in her report to council members, Parker wrote that the vagueness of such a law could invite a successful legal challenge.
Parker said in prepared statement that the law would not further empower police to search protesters or their bags in search of the prohibited items, nor would it "affect picket signs, banners or any other means of peaceful expression."
Those arrested under the ordinance would face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.