Berkeley police dismantle homeless encampment, arrest City Council candidate

Micah Carroll/Staff

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Update 11/04/16: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from members of the encampment. 

Berkeley Police Department dismantled a South Berkeley homeless encampment early Friday morning, ending in the arrest of a Berkeley City Council candidate, among others.

A group of approximately 25 BPD officers arrived at the intersection of Adeline and Fairview streets about 5 a.m., forcing about 20 sleeping individuals at the encampment to disperse. The encampment was protesting the Hub, the city’s system to provide resources for the homeless, for its inadequate services.

Nanci Armstrong-Temple, a community activist who is running for the District 2 council seat, was arrested during the incident.

A BPD spokesperson was not immediately available for comment, but several reports on social media confirmed that at least three people including Armstrong-Temple were arrested this morning.

A video posted on the Facebook page of First They Came for the Homeless shows Armstrong-Temple on the ground face down being handcuffed by several police officers with her right arm tucked under her head.

“I’m not resisting,” Armstrong-Temple can be heard saying repeatedly in the video. “They are twisting my arm, they’re trying to break my arm. I am a Black woman, you cannot handcuff me and put me in chains.”

According to her husband Carl Temple, Armstrong-Temple was arrested after allegedly intervening with officers’ attempts to put an arrested disabled senior homeless activist into a police van.

“Give us your arm, you’re under arrest,” a police officer can be heard saying in the video. “You impeded that, you obstructed that. … This is not a negotiation, you’re under arrest.”

The woman who filmed the video, Melissa Dewey, can be heard saying, “This is what brutality looks like.”

Armstrong-Temple was taken to Santa Rita Jail and is facing a felony lynching charge for allegedly trying to take a person out of police custody and a misdemeanor police obstruction charge. Her bail is set at $55,000.

Her hearing is set to take place Monday at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse.

Her husband said he does not think the arrest will negatively impact her campaign.

“Do you want somebody who you know protects those who don’t have protection or do you want the opposite of that?” Temple said. “If anything, I think it helps (her campaign).”

A crowdfunding page has been created to help fund her bail. According to Temple, Armstrong-Temple has been held by police in connection to her activism before but never charged.

In addition to Armstrong-Temple, homeless activist Michelle Lot was arrested at the encampment and has been charged with obstructing a police officer. She is also being held at Santa Rita Jail and her bail is set at $5,000.

Members of First They Came for the Homeless, among others, later began marching from the site to the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center building about noon in protest of the early-morning disbanding.

Mike Zint, the founder of First They Came for the Homeless and organizer of the encampment, said the tent city was to demonstrate that such a settlement could work to help the homeless.

According to Zint, the encampment was created about five weeks ago, and since its creation has had to relocate about once per week due to police intervention. Zint alleged that the latest police disbandment was more violent than previous ones.  

“Until today, we hadn’t had a problem,” Zint said. “The only problem was police.”    

BPD sent an alert out at 12:22 p.m. cautioning drivers of the civil demonstration on Martin Luther King Jr. Way north of Ashby Avenue. According to Zint, the protesters plan to remain in front of Old City Hall until their demands are met or they are removed.

Zint called on the community to step up and stand with the homeless. He said that the homeless are not criminals, that many are disabled and that they need help.

Contact Michael Lee, Jessica Lynn and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected].