Protesters march to City Council meeting to urge passage of items regarding police action

Benjamin Shenouda/Staff

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A group of approximately 100 students and community members marched to Berkeley City Council’s meeting Tuesday, urging councilmembers to pass agenda items regarding police action at last year’s December protests.

The march, organized by the UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College Black Student Unions, began at about 5:30 p.m. at the intersection Oxford and Center streets and continued through Downtown, ending on the steps outside City Council’s chambers at Old City Hall where various demonstrators spoke.

The first agenda item endorses the National Demands of Ferguson Action, a list drafted by protesters that advocates for demilitarizing local law enforcement and supporting the End Racial Profiling Act, among other propositions.

The second item would amend Berkeley Police Department’s regulations on crowd control, use-of-force and mutual aid, while the third item would direct the city to conduct an independent investigation of police response to the Dec. 6 protests.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin drafted the three items in response to controversy over police actions during the demonstrations over grand jury decisions not to indict police officers involved in the killings of unarmed black men, including the firing of tear gas and rubber bullets.

The three items were set to come before City Council at their Jan. 20 meeting, but were tabled twice until Tuesday, when the council voted to approve the three items.

“We’re here to remind people that black lives matter every day of the week,” said Kadijah Means, a Berkeley High School senior and Black Student Union president.

Councilmembers Arreguin and Max Anderson, who stood in solidarity with protesters, spoke to the crowd. Arreguin maintained his position that nonviolent protests should be an option available for people to voice their concerns, and Anderson cited the protesters’ “steadfastness” as the reason why Arreguin’s items were able to appear on the agenda.

Spencer Pritchard, a UC Berkeley senior who helped organize the march, said the demonstration “shows that the movement hasn’t gone anywhere,” adding that he hopes to highlight what he called “the unjust arrests of black people in the city.”

“We are looking for real change,” said George Lippman, vice chair of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission.

Staff writer Alexander Barreira contributed to this report.

Adrienne Shih is the lead city reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.

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  • So Kali

    The war is not over, people of Berkeley. Take a lesson from Oakland….Under Jerry the Brown, Oakland cops were allowed to fire “Less Lethal” weapons at peaceful picketers, in Lethal Fashion (targeting the head and face) and used exploting pepper grenades and clubs on peaceful, retreating picketers. Consequently the Oakland Police were ‘Forbidden” the use of these lethal toys.

    Just two years after the violent Police attack against peaceful picketers at the Oakland Docks, the Oakland Police were quietly given back ALL their “Less Lethal” toys to use. And they used them against Occupy, with notorious results.

    We live in a Fascist Police State, any attempt to rein in Police Brutality with be manipulated into ineffectiveness behind the scenes.

    Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss!

    • Dan Spitzer

      So Kali writes, “We live in a Fascist Police State.” Such rhetoric is as ignorant as it is false. In most of the world, including that of the “saintly” Palestinian Territories, people constantly live in fear of the authorities. They live in fear of being overheard being even neutral about their government, they live in fear if they are female or gay, they live in fear if they are Jewish or some other religious minority. Indeed, they can’t even draw a bloody cartoon and expect genuine police protection.

      I’m not advocating misconduct by the police. That is purely and utterly unacceptable and I saw plenty of it during my participation in both the Civil Rights Movement and in opposition to the Vietnam War. But virtually everything is relative and despite some disturbing exceptions (and yes they are exceptions), police behavior has improved markedly.

      I can assure you that only a fool residing in our crime-ridden urban ghettos would wish to advocate living a few hours in a neighborhood without police protection. What’s most deplorable is the continued astronomical incidence of young African Americans killing other young blacks. This dwarfs police misconduct toward minorities by eons…

      • Gene Nelson

        Maybe — but police are paid by us and should be under our control and should be protecting us not hurting us. Your comparison to black on black crime is invalid.

        • Dan Spitzer

          Gene, given the proportion of need, the daily tragedy of black on black crime is an infinitely more pressing issue which our society has to address. We are talking about thousands of young men whose lives are needlessly cut short.

          It’s true beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are a (relatively) few police bad apples who, as are those in every profession, succumb to bigotry. And their crimes must be dealt with. But in point of fact, most police do everything they can to protect our citizenry, regardless of color.

          The truth of the matter is that by comparison with African American young men who deprive other black youth of their very lives, police racial malfeasance is like the proverbial bucket of sand out of the Sahara.

          It takes courage to address this infinitely more pressing matter. Unfortunately, in Berkeley (especially the UC campus) and Oakland, it’s far easier to join the ideological Amen Corner and reduce the situation literally to black and white than to have the integrity to address what is by far a more crying need…