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After police arrest, use batons on protesters, Occupy Berkeley encampment remains

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Police face protesters near Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.


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DECEMBER 22, 2011

After a clash between police and Occupy Berkeley protesters early in the morning, only a few tents remained on the lawn of Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park Thursday evening.

Berkeley Police Department officers removed what appeared to be unoccupied tents from the encampment early Thursday morning, but a handful of protesters stayed in the park after the eviction deadline, which was set at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Many of the protesters packed up their belongings to leave or relocate to an encampment outside the Bank of America on Shattuck Avenue.

At around 2 p.m., city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said crews from the city’s Department of Public Works were cleaning the park, which then contained only a few tents.

According to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, officers used their batons on protesters on two occasions Thursday morning. In the first instance, police used their batons on a group of demonstrators who allegedly surrounded a police vehicle and charged officers after police drove to the south side of the park to remove abandoned tents, Kusmiss said in an email.

The second confrontation occurred at about 1:15 a.m. when a crew from the Department of Public Works arrived at the Ronald T. Tsukamoto Public Safety Building with a truck to remove the tents and other items the police officers had taken from the park. According to Kusmiss, a group of protesters “swarmed” the crew and began climbing on the truck in order to get the property, at which point a team of officers came out of the public safety building and some officers used their batons to push protesters back.

“BPD officers reacted to what they were seeing — movements of individuals, people charging and maintained a skirmish line so that the Public Works crew could accomplish an exit/escape,” she said in the email.

According to a memo sent to city staff Thursday afternoon from interim City Manager Christine Daniel, there were two arrests Wednesday night at the park, but neither was for camping out. The first was for alleged public drunkenness and possession of methamphetamine, and the other was on suspicion of obstructing an officer while carrying out his duties, according to the message.

The clearing out of the park came after the protesters were issued with an eviction notice Tuesday following a city decision that continued reports of crime and unsafe conditions at the encampment had gone on too long.

According to Kusmiss, 24 of the 33 calls that have been made to BPD regarding incidents related to Occupy Berkeley since Oct. 23 have been classified as crimes.

“I can’t even begin to describe what I’m feeling right now but I’m feeling pretty cold and I’m feeling pretty pissed and I’m feeling pretty tired,” said Berkeley resident Russell Bates, who had been occupying the park with the other campers since Oct. 17.

Stephanie Baer and Tony Zhou of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Adelyn Baxter is the lead city government reporter.

DECEMBER 22, 2011