Bulk of Occupy Berkeley camp cleaned out

Public works workers remove a Christmas tree from the Occupy Berkeley encampment in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, California, Thursday, December 22, 2011. Photo by David Yee

Update 10:30 pm: By 10 pm Thursday there were no more tents in Civic Center Plaza. Protesters had left the park by then or thier tents had been picked up by public works crews. The sprinklers were on and about 20 police officers were patrolling the park. Those remaining from Occupy Berkeley were hanging out across the street by Berkeley High School.


Berkeley city workers came into Civic Center Park around 1 pm on Thursday and cleaned out the majority of the Occupy Berkeley encampment.

Workers from the public works department, some dressed in light blue haz mat suits, drove a big truck onto the grass and started loading abandoned tents, sleeping bags, chairs, and other items. The 14 workers were accompanied by about 30 Berkeley police officers who stood ready to moderate any clashes with protestors.

But the bulk of the camp had already vacated. Protestors had taken down more than half of the 70 tents at the park by Wednesday night, and another dozen in the morning.

“What we are doing here is a collaborative project to pick up trash and unattended property,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley police department. She said police would not be dismantling occupied tents since it is legal to be in the park in daylight hours.

But the city strategy seemed very effective. By mid-afternoon there were only about seven tents left in the park. The huge mounds of garbage were gone and only ghosts of tents remained, mainly in patches of grass that had turned brown because they had been covered by nylon tents for so long.

Some protestors said that the city workers had taken their stuff even though it had not been abandoned.

“The police took my property without ticketing,” said Larry Silver. “I complied with the law and got my possessions stolen by the cops, essentially.”

People whose possessions were taken by city workers can retrieve them at the city transfer station at Second and Gilman streets, according to Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, a spokesperson for Berkeley.

Police and fire officials watch Dan Stone clear out his tent from the Occupy Berkeley encampment in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, California, Thursday, December 22, 2011. Photo by David Yee

City Council member Jesse Arreguin was at the park shortly after the cleanup began and said he was pleased that it had been done peacefully.

“I am glad this didn’t result in an Oakland-type confrontation,” he said. “This was largely peaceful. Overall, the way the city handled this is commendable.

Arreguin had been upset that interim City Manager Christine Daniel had not notified him and other council members that the police were going to start enforcing the park curfew on Dec. 21.

On Wednesday night, Berkeley police removed a few abandoned tents from the park. Early the next morning, a group of protestors climbed into a public works truck to retrieve some of the items taken, and a group of 30 officers formed a barricade of the street to drive them back. A few suffered minor injuries when police hit them with batons.

During the Thursday afternoon cleanup, many members of the Occupy Berkeley protest took their gear across the street next to Berkeley High School.  Some protestors have said they intend to return to the park, even though police plan to enforce a 10 pm to 6 am ban on sleeping on the grass.

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  • your name is
    no more real. 

  • Bruce Love

    Do you mean “told to” by the city manager?

    We don’t know precisely the decision process that occurred.  By ordinance the city manager can set park rules which the police can enforce.  The police also have, well, ordinary policing powers and some discretion about how and when to apply them — these kick in when camp is plagued by sexual assaults and a stabbing, go figure.

    From where I stand it appears that there was ongoing multi-agency consultation about dealing with the encampment, with the final decision being taken somewhere around the nexus of the BPD and the city manager’s office.

    What do you mean by “fair to the police”?  They did a good job.

  • bruce by fair to the police i just mean we should be fair to the police.  the police have been over-armed and militarily overtrained and it’s harming them, the peace and us http://richardbrenneman.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/berkeley-cop-threatens-to-shoot-occupy-er/

  • In what world is this what democracy looks like?  Or havent you seen the footage lately?  Berkeley and Oakland look exactly like Egypt and Lybia.  Voters have zero say in what happens here.  All local police forces have been over-armed,
    militarily retrained and told to scare us. This is harming them, the peace and us.  Disarm and support your local police. 

  • Bruce Love

    I’ve watched the footage and the misleading editing done by the copwatch folks and indybay.  I’m disappointed that Brenneman is joining them there — I usually like his work a lot.

    The video in question is falsely described as an officer threatening to shoot someone  for “documenting his actions”.   Look more closely.

    Far from being journalistic, the videographer insists on challenging and testing the officer’s demand that he stay back.   The officer is carrying a very dangerous weapon and it is especially important that he maintain control of it — a requirement incompatible with having some dood with a camera play “I’m not touching you” games.   By encroaching on the officer’s space, after being clearly and obviously sanely told to “back up”, the videographer renders himself indistinguishable from someone who is intent on taking the weapon from the officer.  Thus, the officer is confronted with the immediate threat of the use of deadly force BY THE VIDEOGRAPHER.

    The officer makes a remark to the effect that the videographer might not understand the gravity of the situation unless he has to fire the damn thing but in any event should get back because this ain’t a game and the officer isn’t playing.   The officer is pointing the weapon at the ground, at the time.   The videographer encroaches again anyway and, yes, very briefly the weapon winds up barrel towards the videographer — with finger off trigger — as the officer with the weapon steps away backwards and other officers rush forward in his defense.

    The videographer, in other words, charged a deadly weapon and then complains “hey, I mighta got hurt.”   The officer gives clear warnings and takes prudent steps.

    This was not a non-violent protest.   This protest was an embarrassment (to put it mildly) to the Occupy movement.

    The officer in this scene is there to backstop officers who are addressing the crowd without the use of fire-arms.  The tear gas or flash bang or whatever we see in this clip wasn’t used.  Its use would have represented an escalation triggered by the crowd presenting too great a threat to the other officers.    That’s presumably why this officer is staying away from the main action, off to the side.

    Voters have plenty of say in what happens here.   We elect council at whose pleasure both the Chief and the City Manager serve.   Indeed, it is by constituent pressure that council was led to proceed cautiously with respect to mutual aid arrangements.

    The militarization and federalization of municipal police is indeed a dangerous and important issue of our times.  You cheapen and hamper that debate with bogus theatrics like this video.

    And trust me, you don’t want to live around here if the police are disarmed.   Cause, you see, that void will get filled and then, for real, the voters won’t have any voice in the matter.   For real and for tru bro’, quit playin.

  • Bruce Love

    Jay, they defended the city workers in the trucks and picked up garbage in the park largely unarmored and wielding sticks that they barely used and used with considerable reserve.   A videographer idiotically charged an officer carrying a more dangerous weapon and is lucky all he wound up with is this footage.

    Compare and contrast that to, for example, the footage of Scott Olson.  Compare what Olson was doing to what that videographer was doing.   Compare what the force in front of Olson did — first the head shot, deliberate or not, then the clearly deliberate flash-bang — to what the BPD did here.  

    If you can not recognize these basic differences its not just me but I suspect most people who just can’t take you seriously other than as someone trying to make an unjust slam against some officers who did a pretty good job.

  • Bruce Love


    this is my town, and i’d like to know who has a say

    That’s a civics question, isn’t it?   It’s not some big secret — it’s the details of the structure of our governement, the apportionment of authority, and so forth.

    What part don’t you understand?   Are you familiar with the city charter and the ordinances?   With council and the org chart under the city manager?  A general familiarity with how municipal policing works in the U.S.?

    if this is democracy, why was city council not consulted?

    Generally speaking the City Manager and Chief are afforded certain discretion.   One reason is that it would be impractical if they had to host a debate among council over every step they take.   They are accountable if they should mis-use their discretion.

  • Anything other than a society living in Anarchy is a “police state” to some degree. We have laws. We have police to enforce them. There aren’t a lot of models of society that function in the real world without a system like that in place.

    None of the people in any of these videos are standing up for _my_ rights. Most of them aren’t standing up for anything at all other than looking for an excuse to cause trouble.

  • I did not make the video, participate in “theatrics” or criticize this officer. 
    It is not the officer’s fault he is overarmed.  Because he is overarmed, the whole event then becomes about protecting the weapon to prevent tragedy.  As Brenneman has rightly informed us, Berkeley and Oakland have paid for this Urban Shield training and the gear that goes with it. We can’t undo that.
    But we _can_ say, Mayor, City Manager, Police Chief, we know you have the riot gear and the weaponry for a battlefield. Leave it in the closet, please.
    Thank you.

  • Accountable? How?  People _were_ injured. We’re all grateful wasn’t even worse.
     One assumes the mayor was behind this.  I don’t think the Police Chief would design such a swift confrontation when it would have been easier to allow for more time for the people to leave, as the overwhelming majority did.  On the other hand, who told those officers to drive over tents? 
    The city manager is new here…. put on the spot, unfamiliar with the
    legacy of Berkeley and could have been
    more creative. Was it really so urgent the huge Christmas tree had to be
    hauled away December 23rd?
    We are the people, not just pawns to terrify in a crowd control demo.
    Buying into Urban Shield was a mistake, and completely inappropriate to Berkeley.

  • Let’s at least give the police the option of using the riot gear & training moneys for something else.

  • Bruce Love

    On what basis do you assert that officer was overarmed?   The camp had been the site of violent crime.  It was common knowledge that a few campers had come to camp saying they wanted a fight with the police.   That night protesters trapped two city workers in a truck and rushed the entrance to police HQ.   How do you get “overarmed”? 

    It’s fine to question the militarization and quasi-federalization of municipal police forces but its helpful to that cause to maintain some standard of intellectual honesty, isn’t it?

  • Bruce Love

    My perspective is pretty different.  Some people talk about the event similarly to you and I wish I knew better how to bridge the gap in common understanding between the various groups.

    Perhaps try to think of it from the perspective of city and police officials.  There had been (both sides say) camper-on-camper violence well beyond any that the police meted out.   By camper accounts, a group disdainful even of Occupy Berkeley had joined camp declaring intent to provoke a violent confrontation with police.   Ample warning of eviction was given and, indeed, most of the campers had decamped.   When police were enforcing the eviction they weren’t met with a crowd saying “A few more hours to pack up!” or “We’ll leave in the morning, please!” but with a crowd whose behavior was not non-violent protest.   The swarm of police in which the famous non-lethal firearm was displayed was in response to the crowd trapping two city workers in a truck and “massing on” the entrance of the police station.

    Alan Ginsberg was unavailable to help mediate.  What ought the police have done?

  • Our rights are all our rights. Rights have to be defended. That’s our imperfect system.