Public Comment

New: Prosecute the Thieves

Carol Denney
Saturday December 03, 2016 - 10:31:00 AM

New Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin walked around in the days before his inauguration not only making promises he apparently can't keep, his staff says the raid on homeless protesters 5:30 am Friday, December 2, the day after his inauguration, came as a complete surprise to him and to his staff, and claim that they're not sure how to stop it. 

A Berkeleyside reporter wrote about the homeless protesters' raid in a story which did not prove but certainly implied that the raid came as a result of vandalism and chalk messages which the city staff found disturbing. Both the Berkeleyside article and the Berkeley City Manager's office assume the chalk messages and the vandalism (smeared feces) were the responsibility of the First They Came for the Homeless group. There were no criminal charges. There was no evidence presented connecting any one person. Just another in a series of raids taking everything all the homeless protesters had with them, including blankets, in the middle of the night. 

If one speaks with a city councilmember or the new mayor's staff, the line is that the City of Berkeley is a headless, heartless machine operating on its own according to previous policies set by a previous mayor and city council. The new mayor and at least some of the new council claims to be distressed about this but claims there is nothing at present they can do. Most people hear this and just think what a shame. Some city staff point out that the council can't technically give direction to the city manager unless they do something formal, like have a meeting, or pass an ordinance, or rescind some previous ordinance. 

This is silly. It is illegal for me, for instance, to decide to take everything you, for instance, happen to own because of some disconnected vandalism taking place in the area. 

I can certainly call the police and report the vandalism, if I have a concern about it. I can try to gather evidence, and work with the police to make a case, if I have one. But there is no law which needs rescinded giving the Berkeley police the right to take someone's tent and blanket on the grounds that some third party chalked an unpleasant message or vandalized a bathroom. In fact, the new mayor should simply call the police and report a theft - by the police -- and prosecute the thieves.