Telegraph Avenue’s longtime staple Robert Meister was arrested Wednesday afternoon after a joint operation conducted by UCPD and Berkeley Police Department.
Police said they received an anonymous tip that a street vendor commonly known as “Patches” due to the colorful patches he sold was selling marijuana from a table on Telegraph Avenue and began investigating the allegations.
Using undercover police officers, UCPD and BPD conducted an undercover buy at Meister’s table on the 2400 block of Telegraph Avenue near Rasputin Music, said UCPD Lt. Eric Tejada.
Meister, 52, was later arrested for sale of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of concentrated cannabis, according to the UCPD crime log.
Meister — who has been a vendor on Telegraph for roughly 20 years — said he makes his living selling patches. While he denied selling marijuana, Meister said he did have cookies on the table and that marijuana cookies are a safe alternative to hard drugs.
Tejada said they used undercover officers — as opposed to surveillance or other methods — to confirm that Meister was selling to students.
“We get a lot of complaints about drug activity in People’s Park and on (Telegraph Avenue),” Tejada said. “It was something we wanted to address.”
During the investigation, police found large quantities of marijuana and marijuana cookies at the stand. Tejada said they also found three pounds of marijuana and more than $10,000 in cash at Meister’s house in Richmond.
Telegraph Avenue vendors said that they typically have good relations with Berkeley Police Department but do not feel sympathy for Meister’s situation.
“Run your business, (and) don’t do illegal shit behind your display,” said Andrea Dick, a longtime Telegraph vendor who sells jewelry, among other items.
Kirby Koepke, a former Telegraph vendor, described Meister as a “fringe character” because he does not sell handmade items like other vendors and does not participate in the lottery vendors use to choose their designated spots along Telegraph Avenue.
“None of the students want (me arrested),” Meister said. “The students are on my side.”
In fact, many students expressed concern over news of Meister’s arrest and said they would like to see him return to Telegraph.
“Generations and generations of Cal alumni are familiar with him and his kind, humorous personality,” said UC Berkeley junior Marybeth Baluyot in an email.
Baluyot said she considered a initiating a campaign to publicize the incident and set up a donation to help Meister, including possibly giving out patches emblazoned with the slogan “Free Patches.”
“Getting charged with possession and sales will probably keep him away for a long time, and our goal is to keep this from happening,” Baluyot said.