Letters: May 7 – May 13

Evans Diamond lacks satisfactory safety

On May 5, 2012, Steven D. Raymond, a UC Berkeley Class of 1977 graduate, filed a report with UCPD about a foul baseball hit he said he had suffered at the game between Cal and Stanford at Evans Diamond on March 23, 2009. He had been referred to UCPD by the Office of Environment, Health and Safety.

Raymond said he was approaching the wall outside Evans Diamond after the game had started when he was hit on the left side of his head by a foul ball. He said he was given the ball that had hit him and allowed to enter the game without purchasing a ticket.

Raymond believes he was lucky not to have yet removed his bicycle helmet, which was securely strapped over a balaclava (head cover), probably distributing the force rather than allowing it to focus on one spot. Even so, he was treated for a jaw contusion by his own physician several days later. Within a few weeks, he experienced dizziness after having donned a helmet or hat and was diagnosed with postconcussive syndrome. When the symptoms continued beyond the usual time needed for resolution, he was referred to a neurologist, who confirmed the diagnosis but said Raymond’s prognosis was “excellent for a full recovery.”
Raymond said he had observed a foul ball landing outside the wall a few weeks later. He said he will ask the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to add screening or netting to the fence behind Evans Diamond to prevent foul balls from flying over the wall.

— Steven D. Raymond

Gill Tract lawsuit is costly bullying tactic

The lawsuit against the Gill Tract farmers is an expensive bullying tactic, and the regents have used it before.

Exactly 20 years ago in 1992, I was one of four named defendants in a similar SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) designed to frighten and intimidate the community of people opposing the effort to turn People’s Park into a sports facility.

The regents eventually had to remove their own sand volleyball courts in the park, but not before costing the public millions in scarce funds intended for education.

It is an outrage that the clear call for cooperative, communicative response to protest suggested in the Robinson-Edley report is being ignored in favor of a costly and malicious prosecution of people for simply planting vegetables.

— Carol Denney

Berkeley should be wary of data sharing

The city of Berkeley is facing decisions on how to adapt law enforcement’s response to the vast power of the interagency communications and data sharing systems and still avoid civil rights abuses. Because the federal government is increasingly co-opting police all over the country, the City Council must give appropriate guidance to the police if Berkeley is to protect the privacy, civil rights and safety of its citizens. Adjusting how Berkeley Police Department handles its involvement with federal and state information-sharing programs in the age of Facebook and fusions centers is scheduled for a City Council vote at the May 15 meeting.

Government gathering data about private citizens becomes a threat when it spreads throughout government networks and, based on sketchy or false recording, prompts law enforcement to take inappropriate action. Innocent behavior gets twisted in the circuitry of state and federal data banks until a simple traffic stop has the patrol car’s computer offering up suspicions about you that are absurd.

Take a picture of City Hall (really) and you might be reported through the federal Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) system as scouting significant targets. Get arrested during a protest and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) will make your record available to almost all law enforcement agencies at all levels of government.

A coalition of concerned citizens is working with the Berkeley city government to adopt guidelines for law enforcement that are more judicious and respectful of constitutional restraints. Adjusting relevant ordinances and policies to make sure that only vitally needed information about dangerous persons is reported to NCRIC and the SAR system will be on the City Council meeting agenda for May 15. The best place to filter out bad information from federal computers is to be more cautious about how these programs are used.

— Jim Hausken

Council should not support agreements

At the May 15, 2012, City Council meeting, I will be urging Mayor Bates and City Council members to not approve the proposed agreements between Berkeley Police Department and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and the Urban Areas Security Initiative. Please join me.

I find it appalling that anyone would even consider sending “suspicious activities” reports to some central agency. It is not suspicious to take pictures of public buildings. I have taken many pictures of the Oakland Federal Building for a number of perfectly valid and innocent reasons. I hate to think that taking a picture of our lovely old City Hall might be considered a suspicious activity. As a Cal alum with many fond memories, I think taking a picture of the campus where I spent my courting days should be an activity which would not get me an FBI entry or something like that.

Of course as a white Norte Americano, my photography would probably not be considered suspicious. You all know as well as I do that foreign tourists and parents of international students taking graduation pictures are much more likely to be the subjects of suspicion. This discrimination is disgusting, and Berkeley should not be a part of anything that tends to racial and religious profiling.

The whole idea of urban warfare is horrifying. And turning our police into a military force is what urban warfare training will lead us into. We, the citizens, are not the enemy. Or we should not be considered so. I experienced being targeted as an enemy by the Oakland police who were driving up and down Berkeley’s streets looking for trouble. It was bad when Jerry Brown allowed Oakland to be a training ground for urban warfare. I don’t want that here in my hometown. And training our police to look at citizens as the enemy is exactly what led to the serious wounding of that young man at the Occupy Oakland demonstration. That is not an Urban Shield. It is an Urban missile.

The City’s Mutual Aid Policy should be modified such that our police department will not send our officers into jurisdictions where dangerous so-called nonlethal weapons are used. Police from other cities or counties should not be invited into Berkeley to police us with tear gas, tasers and the missiles that were shot at anti-war demonstrators at the Oakland Port. They went so far as to shoot at an elderly woman. Fortunately, she was a tough old bird. But if they had hit someone on blood thinners (like me), they could have killed her. Our city should not send our police to help quell the exercise of First Amendment rights.

— Carolyn Scarr