People’s Park activist and UC Berkeley alumnus Nick Alexander, who chooses to forgo his legal surname Behney, was arrested Aug. 18 on suspicion of vandalism, assault and battery on a peace officer, but was released one day later from the Santa Rita County Jail, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
Alexander said he punched a police officer, alleging self-defense, during the protests at People’s Park on Aug. 3. He also said he participated in tearing down the fencing erected around the park’s perimeter. While the Berkeley Police Department, or BPD, said they were not directly involved in the protest, officers nearby identified Alexander and obtained a warrant for his arrest Aug. 4, according to BPD Public Information Officer Byron White.
Alexander was held on a $85,000 bail, which was dropped upon his release.
“I still probably haven’t processed it,” Alexander said. “It was unbelievable, the whole experience, and it really did fundamentally change my view of a lot of things.”
BPD also obtained a search warrant for Alexander’s phone and seized it Aug. 18. Alexander alleged that his phone is still in police custody and said he cannot retrieve it without a court order.
White did not respond to a request for confirmation if the phone is still in police custody as of press time.
“I use my phone to contact my doctors to refill my prescriptions, to live my daily life,” Alexander said. “So it’s a little surreal, right? I’m just saying that word a lot, but it’s really the only word that encapsulates all the experiences I’ve been through.”
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said Alexander was released because he could not be legally held for more than 72 hours without criminal charges. The office also said Alexander’s case is under further investigation by BPD.
Additionally, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office provided Alexander with a Detention Certificate, which states that his custody was a detention only, not an arrest.
Alexander returned to People’s Park following his release to man the kitchen, which he opened last year.
“We’re going to be cooking hamburgers and asparagus and garlic bread,” Alexander said. “Ultimately, I’ll always be here and always do what I’ve done, which is feed people.”
UCPD arrested seven people Aug. 3 in connection to the protest at People’s Park, according to UCPD spokesperson Lt. Sabrina Reich. Four people were released at the scene, pending charges including trespassing, resisting or obstructing an officer and battery on a peace officer.
Reich said another individual was booked at the Berkeley City Jail, and two others were booked at the Santa Rita County Jail, but were later cited and released.
“The moment they stop wanting to build on this park and they give us some type of an ironclad assurance that they can’t wiggle their way out of, I’ll disassemble all this myself,” Alexander said. “I’ll help take the trees out, and I’ll help beautify and make this a park. But until then, I’m gonna treat this as an active war zone.”