Berkeley community reacts to arrest, release of City Council candidate Aidan Hill

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City Council candidate Aidan Hill’s arrest during a campus political science class Wednesday prompted a mixed reaction from the Berkeley community.

Hill, who uses they/them pronouns, was arrested Wednesday evening during “Colloquium in Political Science,” or Political Science 179. They were taken to the Berkeley City Jail on suspicion of disturbing the peace and obstructing a police officer. Hill was released later that day with a notice to appear in court Nov. 26.

While some community members expressed frustration with Hill’s disruption of the class, others, including their campaign opponents and students in the class, objected to Hill’s arrest.

“The person (Hill) had plenty of opportunity to stop or could have left and exited (the) auditorium,” said the class’s instructor, professor Alan Ross. “But not only did the person choose not to do that, but they also chose to disrupt, disrupt, disrupt.”

Ross said he wants his class to be a forum for free speech and to encourage his students to hear a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. The speakers for that day were two former Florida members of Congress: Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican David Jolly.

Campus senior and political science major Dominick Williams, who is enrolled in Political Science 179, said other class sessions had been equally contentious and alleged that Hill had been treated unfairly.

Hill was initially holding up signs toward the back of the auditorium, but they eventually walked to the front of the stage and began yelling loudly, according to Williams. Ross said Hill’s protests reached a point at which the speaker was unable to continue. When Hill did not stop talking over the speakers, Ross said he asked another faculty member to call UCPD.

“Disruption to the point where someone isn’t allowed to speak — that defeats the whole purpose of the class,” Ross said.

Rigel Robinson, a fellow candidate for the District 7 City Council seat, said in an email that Hill’s arrest was inappropriate and he was happy to see Hill back on strike with members of the UC system’s largest employee union Thursday.

Cecilia “Ces” Rosales, who is also running for the District 7 seat, characterized the situation as “unfortunate” and said in an email that she disagrees with the arrest.

“This is still a question of free speech. … They may have expressed it in a way that was disrupting but that is what free speech is about,” Rosales said in the email. “Sometimes it may cause some inconvenience to others, but they was not hurting anybody.”

Williams said this incident indicated a need for more student input in UCPD decision-making.

The ASUC passed a resolution Wednesday evening calling for an independent police advisory board. According to ASUC Senator Amir Wright, who is also a student in the class, the board is necessary because the existing groups are led ineffectively and lack any real power.

“(Hill’s arrest) is a prime example of what happens when you don’t have an independent advisory board or community input,” Williams said in support of the resolution.

UCPD could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Contact Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RonitSholkoff.