Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting saw heated discussion of racial profiling and police violence as council members voted by a slim margin to extend the city’s curfew order.
After an open public comment in which most commenters spoke about issues of police violence and racial inequity, the council passed an open-air dining plan for the city and a $100,000 fund to provide grants for local businesses affected by vandalism.
The remaining half of the meeting was devoted to debate over the recent curfew orders.
Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern implemented a countywide curfew through June 5. Soon after, the Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley announced the city’s own curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday and Tuesday. Multiple council members and Berkeley citizens alleged that the initial order was an overreach of the sheriff’s authority, although the majority of the council members ultimately supported extending the city’s curfew through June 5.
Berkeley Police Department Chief Andrew Greenwood spoke at the meeting, describing the criminal activity taking place in the city and arguing for the extension of the curfew.
Greenwood emphasized that the Bay Area’s system of mutual aid, in which officers are sent out to aid other cities’ police departments, has been “overwhelmed” over the last five days of protests.
“What we ask you to recognize is that the scope and scale of mutual aid work and activity going on has resulted in a huge strain on resources,” Greenwood said at the meeting. “This is why the curfew system is needed.”
Williams-Ridley stressed that the curfew is a temporary step, which she said is intended to prevent nighttime criminal activity while preserving the values of free speech and assembly. Multiple council members and many members of the public, however, alleged that the curfew infringes on civil liberties.
Of the 20 people who spoke during the public comment session about the measure, 18 spoke in opposition to or voiced concerns about the curfew extension, while two spoke in support of the measure.
Councilmember Ben Bartlett said since he believes the city has not yet sufficiently addressed issues of racial profiling, he could not support a curfew that would allegedly give police officers the “wholesale ability” to arrest Black people.
“All over the country we’re seeing what seems like a violation of the right of the people to assemble, and I want to make sure Berkeley isn’t complicit in that,” said Councilmember Rigel Robinson, who also voted against the extension of the curfew, at the meeting.
About 12:20 a.m., after several extensions and the postponement of multiple items, including a minimum wage amendment and budget discussion, the City Council voted on the curfew extension.
The extension passed 5-4 with several language amendments to allow for people traveling to or from work, and for protests ending soon after 9 p.m.