Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín cancels meeting to discuss police use of tear gas

photo of police officers at people's park
Gavin Sagastume/Staff

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Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín cancelled City Council’s special meeting scheduled for Thursday night to address police use of tear gas.

According to the meeting agenda, the council was to discuss City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley’s recommendation to temporarily suspend a June 2020 policy prohibiting police usage of tear gas, smoke and pepper spray.

The meeting was announced after UC Berkeley began activity for construction at People’s Park. Campus suspended operations after ensuing protests, alleging “unlawful protest activity” and violence occurred at the park in a Wednesday statement.

However, Arreguín announced the meeting’s cancellation late Thursday morning, alleging that the Alameda County sheriff declined to provide emergency support to the city when requested by the city council yesterday.

“I’m canceling the meeting. Our policy stands and shame on the Sheriff for threatening to not provide emergency support to Berkeley,” Arreguín said in a tweet.

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern called Arreguín’s allegation “a lie.” According to Ahern, the Sheriff’s Office received a notification that UCPD might request mutual aid, after which he put the region’s social response and crowd control units on standby until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Ahern added that he made it clear that he wanted a request in writing that UCPD would like the units to come with tools to respond, which include tear gas.

Ahern emphasized that UCPD did not proceed to make the request. He said he spoke with UCPD Chief Margo Bennett and suggested that UCPD request aid from state resources like California’s National Guard. UCPD proceeded to call for aid from the California Highway Patrol and from adjacent university police departments, Ahern said.

However, Ahern noted that Bennett is not his employee, and as such, he can only provide guidance and suggestions on how to proceed. Furthermore, Ahern clarified that normally, mutual aid is only available in emergency situations and said Wednesday’s events were planned.

“It wasn’t a mutual aid event; however, we were ready to respond in case the situation got to be more criminal in nature,” Ahern said.

Kavya Gupta is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kavyaguptta.