Dismantling of South Berkeley homeless encampment results in 4 arrests

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Micah Carroll/Staff

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The dismantling of a South Berkeley homeless encampment Friday was a citywide operation resulting in the arrest of four civilians, including District 2 Berkeley City Council candidate Nanci Armstrong-Temple.

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, all four civilians were arrested on suspicion of violations of Penal Code 148 — a state law that prohibits civilians from willfully resisting, delaying or obstructing arrest.

The first arrest by Berkeley Police Department occurred shortly after staff arrived on scene at the intersection of Adeline and Fairview streets. A man who was using a megaphone to inform others of police presence was placed in custody and ultimately, according to Chakko, was put under a psychiatric hold after allegedly threatening to kill himself. The man’s name was not disclosed because of medical privacy reasons, Chakko said in an email.

Michelle Lot, who claimed to be the man’s mother, allegedly interfered with officers as they tried to arrest her son, and she was then also placed in police custody, according to Chakko.  

In a video statement, Lot said she went to put her arm around her son as he was using the bullhorn and alleged that she was subsequently thrown on the ground by cops.

“They were, in my opinion, more violent than they needed to be,” Lot said in the video speaking about police, adding that she sustained various minor injuries such as a cut on her face after allegedly being pinned down to the ground by an officer’s knee. Lot added that she was not resisting arrest.

Senior homeless activist Barbara Brust — who is disabled and was taken into custody some time after Lot and her son — was trying to protect another inhabitant from being forcibly removed from the encampment before she was arrested, according to a video statement by Armstrong-Temple. During the arrest, Brust ended up on the ground, resulting in officers carrying her to a transport van. Eventually, according to Chakko, Brust was cited and released at the scene.

When Brust was being moved to a transport van, Armstrong-Temple began to question officers as to why they were moving Brust.

“I asked the cops ‘What is happening? What is happening?’ ” Armstrong-Temple said in a video statement. “You can’t take Barbara.”

Chakko said in an email that Armstrong-Temple refused to comply with officers’ requests to stop blocking the path to the transport vehicle. Armstrong-Temple alleged in a video statement that during her arrest, she was violently thrown onto the ground.

Armstrong-Temple is facing a felony lynching charge for allegedly trying to take a person out of police custody, as well as a misdemeanor police obstruction charge.

“What does justice look like? It’s not this,” Armstrong-Temple said in the video.

Armstrong-Temple and Lot were sent to Santa Rita Jail with bails set at $55,000 and $5,000 respectively.

After public outcry through social media under hashtag #freenanci, in conjunction with donations to a crowdfunding page for legal and bail funds, Armstrong-Temple and Lot were able to make bail and be released from Santa Rita Jail early Saturday morning.

Armstrong-Temple’s arraignment is scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m. at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse, with a rally in support of Armstrong-Temple to take place beforehand at 8 a.m.

Chakko said while roughly two dozen BPD officers were present at the scene, there were also representatives from other city departments — such as the Department of Public Works, city administration, mental health staff and homeless outreach staff. Prior to the disbandment, the city had received a number of complaints about behavior surrounding the encampment, such as an increase in the presence of garbage and human feces, Chakko said.

The city issued inhabitants of the encampment verbal and written notices Oct. 21 and Oct. 31 in order to give them time to collect their belongings and evacuate, according to Chakko. Including the day of the disbandment, the city had warned members of the encampment three times of the ensuing dismantling of the camp.

Individuals in the encampment, which was part of a larger protest against inadequate city services for homeless residents, requested that the city set aside a piece of land for two to four years that could act as a sanctioned encampment for a tent city.

But during a City Council meeting Tuesday, Council members informed the protesters that the city could not approve a sanctioned encampment. The council did, however, offer to expand the number of beds in shelters and services offered to the homeless community. The city has yet to secure a winter shelter for this year. 

Brenna Smith is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @bsmith_1853.