Berkeley police respond to report of stabbing at homeless encampment by Old City Hall

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Berkeley police responded Thursday to a report of a stabbing at Old City Hall.

At about 11:26 a.m., Berkeley police responded to a report of a fight and stabbing in front of Old City Hall, where a homeless encampment has been set up in response to recently passed city ordinances that restrict where homeless individuals can sleep, among other behaviors.

According to a post on the Facebook page “First They Came for the Homeless” — where a self-advocacy group for the homeless by the same name has been recording events allegedly occurring at the encampment — one of the protesters was stabbed in the leg, and the “incident occurred with no warning, and no provocation.”

The suspect arrested was 53-year-old Jerry Ziegler, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats. Ziegler allegedly got into an argument over missing property with the 20-year-old victim, Coats said in an email. The situation escalated into a physical altercation between the two, during which the suspect allegedly stabbed the victim multiple times, causing nonlife-threatening injuries.

The suspect, after fleeing the scene, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and an outstanding warrant. During his arrest, he was also found with stolen property from an unrelated November theft, Coats said in an email.

The victim was taken to a local hospital by Berkeley Fire Department.

Activists protesting new policies that they believe criminalize homelessness set up tents in front of Old City Hall several weeks ago and have maintained residence there since. The ordinances that have spurred protests include restrictions on where homeless individuals can sleep and keep their personal effects.

BPD also posted a fourth eviction notice Thursday, ordering the occupiers’ dispersal from the area. Previous notices were given Nov. 24, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Berkeley residents have rallied several times to protest the policies. Most recently, protesters marched to Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting at Longfellow Middle School.

At the Tuesday rally, homeless senior and activist with First They Came for the Homeless Michael Lee said the encampment represents a “historic occasion because homeless people have come together to create an ‘intentional community.’ ”

Community members expressed outrage on social media over the stabbing and the fourth eviction notice.

Ziegler’s arraignment is scheduled for Monday at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

Contact Suhauna Hussain at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @suhaunah.

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