Lawmaker: Oakland police overreacted to "Occupy"

AP Photo/Javier Galeano

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who represents Oakland, on Friday morning criticized what she cast as an "inappropriate" reaction by Oakland police to protesters tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Lee, appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said she was "terrified" at clashes between protesters and police in Oakland, which on Tuesday night left protester and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen with a fractured skull. Oakland police officials have vowed to investigate whether officers, who used riot gear and tear gas to clear protesters, used excessive force.

Lee said she felt "outrage" at what went on, saying "the protesters are not causing this violence."

"These are peaceful protesters who have a right to petition their government," she added, deeming the police response to the protesters "not appropriate." Oakland police have suggested they were provoked by Occupy protesters, alleging the protesters were throwing objects at the police.

"They overreacted and it was really a shame and a disgrace," she said.

Lee says she has "fully supported the Occupy movement" from the start and feels it's "about time that people hit the streets and really raise the concerns of 99 percent of the American people." Taking a stronger stand in support of Occupy than some of her Democratic colleagues, Lee said she did not believe it needed leadership and called it a "movement that is building."

A CBS News/New York Times poll released Tuesday found that 43 percent of Americans agree with the views of the Occupy Wall Street movement, while 27 percent disagree

The California lawmaker, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she would call for an independent investigation into how Oakland police have handled the protests.

"There's been a history of problems in Oakland as it relates to police brutality," said Lee, adding: "There's something wrong."

In New York, Occupy protesters marched on behalf of the Oakland protesters Thursday. They planned to march on five banks on Friday afternoon, delivering letters "from the 99% to the 1%."  

Occupy-ers: This is our "Valley Forge moment"