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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Government & Elections | Police State and Prisons
Police violently beat and arrest community members at Berkeley City Council meeting
On Tuesday, June 20, Berkeley police officers violently cracked down on community members opposed to Berkeley’s participation in Urban Shield at special hearing of the city council. Two people were arrested, and multiple people were injured, with an elderly Berkeley resident bleeding from the head after being struck by a police officer. The two arrestees have been cited and released.
[Photo by Brooke Anderson]
Over 500 advocates and Berkeley residents, including former mayor of Berkeley Gus Newport, packed the room to show their support for withdrawing the city from the controversial and highly militarized Urban Shield SWAT training and weapons expo, providing hours of community testimony about the harms, racism, and dangers of the program. After hearing from hundreds of community members opposed to Urban Shield and Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, the mayor attempted to rush and confuse the vote. In this moment, community members took nonviolent action to uphold the democratic process, displaying a banner with the "Stop Urban Shield" message that was overwhelmingly supported. Without proper warning, police responded with aggressive force and arrested two community members and subsequently caused head injuries to two others.
“The way the police responded to a show of nonviolent protest speaks volumes to the reasons why we need to end programs like Urban Shield that promote militarization and violence,” said Ellen Brotsky, a Berkeley resident and member of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “The Berkeley police chief spent much of the meeting talking about how his police department is skilled in de-escalation, yet what we saw is police officers quickly escalate against Berkeley communities. They showed their true colors of repressing protest and escalation, which is why we need a withdrawal from Urban Shield that will only make these worse.”
“The violence exercised by the Berkeley Police Department on Tuesday night testifies exactly to why we must end Urban Shield,” said Katie Loncke of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, who sustained a head injury from police. “It is a small taste of the militarized mindset that Urban Shield encourages, and the consequent brutality faced daily by Black, Brown, and poor communities in the Bay Area.”
The use of force against peaceful demonstration is being investigated by civil rights lawyers as Berkeley Police recently resolved a legal matter prohibiting these types of violent crowd control tactics. Despite community witnesses, a representative of the Berkeley Police Department stated "we do not have info on a victim that was allegedly struck by baton," dismissing multiple accounts and photographs of police violence.
“The nonviolent action we took that night was necessary to ensure democratic process. For simply holding a banner, the police exercised extreme force against me without warning, spraining my wrist, elbow, and shoulder,” said Dylan Cooke, a member of the Stop Urban Shield who testified on Tuesday to her past experience as a medic responding to militarized police violence, including at Standing Rock.
“For a moment during the council meeting, the motion to withdraw city participation from Urban Shield and to create a task force to look into alternatives was the clear and reasonable option for councilmembers to take, one that would have been amenable to everyone. Yet that motion was quickly and undemocratically abandoned,” said Isaac Ontiveros of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “The sensible path for the council is to revisit and support that motion.”
The following day, at least 168 emails and phone calls throughout that day were received by the Mayor and City Clerk's office demanding a new vote on Urban Shield. Community members, the Stop Urban Shield coalition, and civil rights attorneys will continue to pursue legal and civic action to uphold democratic process in Berkeley and ensure a re-vote.
On June 22, the City of Berkeley decided to uphold the largely contested and undemocratic vote by the Mayor and City Council on the city's participation in the controversial Urban Shield program. The vote allowing Berkeley Fire and Police Departments to participate in Urban Shield activities is being questioned as a possible violation of the Brown Act based on a number of violations, with the notable civil rights law firm Siegel & Yee having submitted a formal "Cure and Correct" letter Wednesday. The letter argues that the Mayor discussed the proposed agenda items with a majority of council members prior to the vote, did not provide the public or council members with a clear proposal prior to the vote, and that the vote was not completed or heard by the members of the public due to the peaceful protest that erupted during the attempted vote.
Photo by Brooke Anderson
Photo by Brooke Anderson