Councilman: Zero tolerance on Occupy Berkeley

New proposal calls for a zero tolerance policy for Occupy Berkeley. Photo: Lance Knobel

Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, whose 4th district includes Civic Center Park, today urged the city to adopt a health and safety plan for the Occupy Berkeley encampment. It calls for a zero tolerance policy on “all violations of the law and park rules, with the exception of camping in the park overnight”.

“We cannot wait. We have to take action now,” Arreguín said. “We have to be making it clear to people that the laws will be enforced. That will ensure health and safety while at the same time respecting peoples’ rights to assembly and free speech.”

Arreguín’s suggested guidelines for city staff and police comes a day after the city distributed notice to the Occupy Berkeley encampment that enforcement would be stepped up.

“The situation in the park is unacceptable,” the notice, from Acting Parks and Rec Director Scott Ferris, declared. “The City is concerned about the health and safety of both the members of the encampment and the general public, including school age children. To address this, City staff from various departments will inspect the park on a regular basis and will take enforcement action as necessary to respond to illegal activities, address unsanitary conditions, and keep people safe. This enforcement action could include, if necessary, citations (including citations for unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs) and arrests.”

In her memo to the mayor and city council accompanying a copy of the notice, Interim City Manager Christine Daniel cited “a substantial increase in illegal activities and safety violations”. Ferris’ notice included details of the activities that have been recorded by the police and other city departments (Berkeleyside published the police list last week).

Arreguín said his plan was also spurred by the increase in problems, as well as the growth in the encampment. He admitted there was a new urgency to the matter since he spoke to Berkeleyside last week. He said that he intended his plan to be a “helpful framework for staff to use”.

The framework singles out possession of weapons, assault and battery, theft, smoking, drinking in public and the presence of open containers, drug use and possession, littering, off-leash dogs and not cleaning up after dogs, and excessive noise at late hours as violations that would be covered by the zero tolerance policy.

The policy also suggests limiting the number of tents and says that “multiple violations of these laws and the zero tolerance policy or an imminent threat to public safety” may result in the city looking at removal of the encampment.

According to Arreguín’s framework, the city “should consider a reasonable date in which the encampment should transition to a daily demonstration or other forms of political assembly”.

How long can Occupy Berkeley last? [12.12.11]
Berkeley High concerned about Civic Park Occupy camp [12.01.11]
Occupy Berkeley remains, but experiment is proving fragile [11.28.11]
Occupy Berkeley consolidates camp, supports Oakland [11.02.11]
All quiet at Occupy Berkeley camp at MLK Park [10.26.11]
Berkeley joins 900 cities to condemn corporate greed [10.16.11]
Wall Street protests come to Berkeley [10.09.11]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • I contacted the city and they pointed me to the document distributed on Wednesday about the encampment. No other statement was made. 

    Jesse Arreguín’s proposal, it seems to me, extends and specifies the intent made in the city statement from the Parks & Rec director. I don’t think there’s a world of difference in policy. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Lance.  I do think those non-answers (my interpretation, not putting words in your mouth) are newsworthy.  Something like “The mayor’s office had no comment on Arreguin’s proposal.”  Because part of the story, at least in my experience, is that the mayor’s office has been non-responsive.  

    It was obvious when Oakland and SF were shut down that those folks would head to the Berkeley camp and none of our politicians — including Jesse — acted to stop this compounding of the problem.  Indeed, as Sharkey points out, they endorsed Occupy.  It’s good that Jesse is course correcting and I’m very interested in knowing whether any of the other leaders in the city have learned anything from the exercise.  

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Sharkey — agree, it’s important to keep pressing all of the council members for their part in this train wreck.  After all, who could have possibly anticipated that a council endorsement of the movement would actually draw the movement to Berkeley?  Inconceivable!

  • Tired

    We, the tax payers of Berkeley, are picking up the tab. Thanks Jesse! This is our park, not just the Occupy campers who seemed to have taken it over for themselves.

  • Tired

    The odds are against it because it is not happening currently and they are there 24/7 with time enough to clean up. I cant wait for it all to be gone. I can do without the poop that has found its way smeared on all the paths and sidewalks around the park. Dont forget to watch for poop in the grass as well.

  • Anonymous

    Supporting the movement/initial encampment and supporting increased enforcement are not contradictory nor mutually exclusive.

    In fact, previous quotes about having “no problem” with the encampment were misleadingly cropped from a larger statement about having no problem with Occupy Berkeley and the encampment as a political demonstration but we do have a problem with the increase of public safety and health issues at the park, often created by individuals who do not cooperate with Occupy Organizers. We’re always at the mercy of whatever words the media chooses to pick.

    All quibbles aside, however, its more important to focus on the fact that we are all in agreement that we need to do something at the park.

  • Anonymous

    It’s ok to support the plan, but not the man :)

  • Anonymous

    No kudos needed. Just resolution of the issue at hand as we all work as a community. Differences will always be present, whether before, during or after working on a issue. But differences do not necessarily preclude temporary cooperation on issues of mutual interest. You can easily support the plan but not the man, and I am totally fine with that :)

    I appreciate your sentiment that we need to get something done.

  • A further clarification, following some conversations I’ve had since that comment. Arreguín’s proposal wasn’t a response to the city statement. It had been in the works for the last week. I think both the statement and Arreguín’s proposal are pointing in the same direction, but it’s clear that Arreguín developed a fleshed out policy — whether you agree or disagree with it — while the city document is a statement without any detail on the policy. 

  • Bruce Love

    I hope you are wrong about the odds.  The dog poop is a good tell that there’s too much bad attitude there,  I agree.  Well, it’s also gross. And I hope it’s dog.  Ick.

  • My thoughts go in a different direction on this matter. If there are ordinances or “rules” for the park now, I have to wonder what legal can of worm Mr. Arreguin is opening by wanting to enforce some rules and tolerate the flouting of other rules. Ordinances in are place for a reason and suspending them, particularly just parts of them is a slippery slope. Has the City Attorney weighed in with a professional opinion on potential liability for the city if it enforces some rules and ignores others?

  • Camper

    Can we do that in Yosemite? The weather’s still not too bad up there and I think I can still get through to Tuolumne…

  • Andrew

    I’m sure a lot of people would volunteer. But, working with the city and a long-term plan, I think the occupiers should take responsibility and lead the charge to organize the rehabilitation. The movement could use such a proactive and positive effort to give it some good news. I was always taught to leave things cleaner than I found them.

  • You nailed the issue squarely. We cannot choose to suspend parts of ordinances unless we want to open the city up for litigation. In lean times like these, we must be cognizant of the need to reduce potential liability for the city and this issue is an obvious low hanging fruit that can be dealt with immediately through enforcement of all ordinances. I support what the Occupy moment stands for, but these folks do need better focus. They are in a public park across the street from City Hall, with a City Council that is largely sympathetic to their cause, so why the protest in the park?

    The people the Occupy Movement are angry with are not in Berkeley City Hall. However, they can find some of executives responsible for this economic mess over at the corporate HQ for Wells Fargo in SF

    Wells Fargo
    420 Montgomery Street
    San Francisco, CA 94104

    It’s time to take the park back from the 1% for the 99% of citizens in Berkeley that want to enjoy the space, particularly on Saturdays during the Farmer’s Market.

  • Anonymous

    When Mayor Bates emerges from his cone of solitude to take credit for the plan, you can agree with him instead.  Just hang on to any free newspapers you might be reading if you actually encounter him.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, over at the park, there was a shirtless guy prancing around in shorts, doing his dirty dancing moves.  Seemingly every third person has a cigarette going, and there’s a cookstove at work.  

    Across the street at BUSD Administration, whoever hung the flag on MLK and Allston hoisted the California state flag upside down.    

  • Anonymous

    I actually just came back from monitoring the encampment in person and filmed what appeared to be a group of officers beginning to cite for any offenses, including smoking. In fact, the group of people in question were griping about the fact they were being cited for smoking.

  • Any way you look at it, there will be tax dollars spent to rehabilitate the park. The amount of tax dollars spent depends in part on holding the folks in the park accountable for any damage to the turf, plants, etc. and if necessary forcing them through court mandated community service to help fix anything that has been destroyed. However, it’s probably not possible for a court mandate community service when we have a council that has tolerated the flouting of ordinances for so long. My guess is that the taxpayers are going to foot the entire bill for this.

  • Anonymous

    Good, thank you Anthony.  The no smoking ban might seriously be the way to end this — the need for nicotine is strong, perhaps stronger than the need to camp in that park.

  • Anonymous

    Fire engine and ambulance over there now — I wonder what’s up?

  • Toni Mester

                Councilmember Arreguin’s position raises the question whether camping is a form of speech. One of the successes of the Occupy movement was to use an extreme tactic to bring to the forefront a long simmering anger on the back burner of the American consciousness since long before the financial meltdown of 2008, the realization that our democracy has been high jacked by a greedy elite. Numerous books and films including Charles Ferguson’s Oscar winning documentary “Inside Job” have focused on the problem, and the latest Mother Jones has a succinct essay “Occupied Washington” pointing to “grotesque income inequality.” Millions of lives have been downgraded by the current recession, caused in part by a very old evil: avarice. (Radix malorum est cupiditas).
                But will Occupy Berkeley accomplish anything to rectify the problem by camping in Civic Center? I think not. Camping in a public park is not a sustainable tactic, but worse it’s actually a form of theft by which a small number of people commandeer a resource that belongs to the community. If the City Council adopted Arreguin’s position, they must condone by extension encampments in other city parks, many of them in the center of residential neighborhoods.
                Councilmember Arreguin has moved the issue forward, but his position puts our parks at risk. The Mayor should actually be the point person on this issue because he is the only elected official who represents the City as a whole. Perhaps he wishes to embarrass Arreguin, who has frequently been at odds with the Mayor’s majority on the Council. If this is the Mayor’s strategy, it’s a sad comment on his leadership.
                District elections have not served our parks and recreation facilities, from the failure of the pools initiative and the subsequent closure of Willard and the warm pool, to the neglect of Aquatic Park and the current Occupy mess. Our entire parks and recreation system is in need of major investment. When our elected officials think only of their own districts and not a holistic policy, we all lose.

  • libraterian

    It takes a village and a documentary to peacefully end a protest…

    A proposal for ending the occupation of civic center park with dignity and purpose.

    Combine the volunteer services of several local video documentarians and the excellent production staff and post production facilities of BTV to record the decommissioning of the Occupy camp one tent at a time. Each protestor in that tent is offered the opportunity to make personal statement, outlining their convictions and beliefs. Their names (real or otherwise, per their choice) and their tent location is recorded on a sign later placed at the park to commemorate the protest. The tent and those who slept in it are provided local transportation by cab drivers donating their services as a gesture of goodwill.

    As the park clears, volunteers from our various public employee unions, anxious to show their commitment to civic harmony, begin replacing sod donated by a socially conscious big box stores (Home Depot, OSH?). The re-sodding is supervised by our recently retired city manage, as  a way of giving back to the community.

    The footage is edited into a PBS special and bookended with commentary from the prominent Berkeleyans and Occupy leaders.
    Note to very frequent B.side posters: Give others a chance to respond before posting in the response section of my comment.

  • Well said Toni.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a fantasy.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly so.  

  • Anonymous

    I’m thinking of occupying Berkeley Family Camp, aka Tuolomne, this summer.  That’s a Berkeley parks and recreation program and if people from all over can occupy a park here in town, why can’t I occupy a cabin (without contributing to operational costs)?  I mean if camping is “speech,” why not?

    “Please check the seating chart before you come in side… Some of the tables may be Occupied!”

  • libraterian

    Sounds like…we, the taxpayers, are calling the hand of all those who benefit from our largess.
    And let’s make it more sweetly relevant; The families of the 645 students Patch reports were granted “out of district” admissions to BUSD, they can lead the re-sodding.  

  • libraterian

    If sodding is uncomfortable for them, they could voluntarily contribute a pro rata share of BSEP funds, which otherwise are diluted by their admission.

  • libraterian

    Oops, forgot to ask…

    @Tracey, Frances and Lance,  Does Berkeleyside accept political ads? Does Berkeleyside endorse candidates/ballot measures?

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a creative way to express the Occupy message (“an Occupy message”?  “one of many Occupy messages”?):  No despoiling of public parks needed….