After being held at Santa Rita Jail for 30 days — the last 13 of which were spent on a hunger strike — Berkeley mayoral candidate Zachary RunningWolf has been released, free to participate in his first mayoral forum of the election season Monday night.
RunningWolf was arrested by the Oakland Police Department last month prior to his first scheduled Berkeley mayoral forum after a march in solidarity with incarcerated workers. RunningWolf was charged with four counts of vandalism in addition to marijuana possession and resisting arrest. According to Alameda County inmate detail custody information, his bail was set at $50,000.
In order to resume the campaign trail, RunningWolf settled on a plea agreement with the District Attorney in Oakland and was released Thursday. He pleaded no contest to two of the misdemeanors and two of the charges were dropped, according to campaign manager Thomas Hodgman. He was sentenced to time already served.
According to Hodgman, RunningWolf was just crossing the threshold where his health would have been adversely affected by the hunger strike when he was released. The 52-year-old candidate said he lost 25 pounds as a result of self-starvation.
As a vocal critic of police conduct, RunningWolf alleged that his arrest was an intentional effort by the Oakland Police Department to derail his Berkeley mayoral candidacy.
“This race is bigger than the presidential race,” RunningWolf said. “Berkeley affects the entire world, from nanotechnology to GMO foods.”
Both RunningWolf and Hodgman expressed frustration in the lack of recognition RunningWolf received from the other candidates and the media thus far.
Mayoral candidate and UC Berkeley graduate student Ben Gould did not find it unusual that the candidates had not mentioned RunningWolf’s absence at past forums.
“I don’t think it’s odd that no one’s mentioned him,” Gould said. “There have been lots of low-profile campaigns this election, not everyone has shown up to everything.”
Because of his incarceration, RunningWolf has missed four of the five scheduled mayoral debates. In response to this setback, the campaign has been forced to change tactics.
“What we’re doing instead is launching a grassroots campaign, with a willingness to work with student groups,” Hodgman said.