Death threats prompt Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín to seek restraining order against Zachary RunningWolf

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Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín has been granted a temporary restraining order by Alameda County Superior Court Tuesday against community member and former mayoral candidate Zachary RunningWolf over alleged in-person and online death threats.

Harassment against Arreguín and his senior adviser Jacquelyn McCormick allegedly began in about 2017 and has escalated most recently to violent threats posted on RunningWolf’s Twitter account, according to court documents. In response, Berkeley Deputy City Attorney Emmanuelle Soichet filed a petition for a workplace violence restraining order on behalf of Arreguín and McCormick.

RunningWolf did not deny the allegations and added that he will not stop tweeting about Arreguín.

“They’re picking all these incidents to keep me from advocating,” RunningWolf said. “They’re trying to pigeonhole me with this restraining order — it’s a desperate move.”

According to the petition, RunningWolf has repeatedly demanded Arreguín’s resignation and has called his election as mayor “illegitimate” since 2017. In several tweets, RunningWolf referred to Arreguín as “Berkeley Fake Mayor” and to himself as “ELECTED mayor.”

The petition also cites in-person threats and profanities directed toward Arreguín during a meeting of the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission in June 2018. At the meeting, RunningWolf allegedly told Arreguín he would “see (him) in the streets,” adding that he “(hopes Arreguín is) well guarded” after the commission dismissed one of his 19 complaints against Arreguín’s 2016 mayoral campaign.

“Mr. RunningWolf’s behavior has escalated from personal and profane attacks about the 2016 election results to repeated threats of violence against me, including death threats in the past several weeks,” Arreguin said in a statement as part of the petition. “I have resisted until now filing a restraining order. … I feel that I must take this step to protect my safety and the safety of my staff.”

RunningWolf also allegedly wrote chalked messages outside McCormick’s condominium complex, prompting the installment of security cameras on the property. In December 2018, these security cameras captured images of RunningWolf entering the property to deliver a letter calling for Arreguín’s resignation.

From Feb. 26 to March 28, RunningWolf began referring to Arreguín as “Jesse SOON 2 Be Beaten to DEATH Arreguin” in his tweets and threatened to “Break EVERY Bone” in the mayor’s body with a baseball bat. During this time, RunningWolf also tweeted that he will “TAKE the Necessary steps to Remove him EVEN Violently.”

“I do not believe these are empty threats, given the increasing belligerence and violence that Mr. RunningWolf has demonstrated toward me and my staff,” Arreguín said in the statement. “As a result of these threats, I have a genuine fear for my safety and the safety of others who work for me.”

The temporary restraining order requires RunningWolf to stay at least 100 yards away from both Arreguín and McCormick and their respective homes, workplaces and children’s child care centers. In his statement, Arreguín emphasized the importance of civic engagement as part of the democratic process and therefore included an exception in the restraining order that allows RunningWolf to attend and speak at public meetings.

A hearing to replace the temporary restraining order against RunningWolf with an extended stay-away order has been scheduled to take place April 30. If granted, RunningWolf would have to comply with the new order for up to three years.

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.