After canceling its regular session last week, the Berkeley City Council is set to hold two back-to-back meetings Tuesday night at Longfellow Middle School.
During those events, two separate groups have announced plans to protest in Berkeley. Separately, the Berkeley Unified School District has announced a panel discussion this week, for BUSD families only, regarding police-related fatalities. It remains to be seen how protest activities might affect the scheduled city meetings, but officials say they are preparing for a large turnout.
City officials canceled the Dec. 9 council meeting after protesters announced plans to take it over and shut it down. Officials said the regular meeting location, at Old City Hall, could not handle the expected capacity, and postponed the meeting to an undetermined date just hours before it was set to begin.
See complete Berkeleyside coverage of the recent Berkeley protests.
Some activists had announced plans earlier this month to “shut down” the Dec. 9 meeting to protest decisions made by the Berkeley Police Department to teargas and fire projectiles at demonstrators who refused to disperse from Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley on Dec. 6. (Berkeleyside has submitted a lengthy list of questions to police about this incident and has been told responses are forthcoming.)
Late last week, city staff said council’s Dec. 9 agenda will be heard Tuesday, Dec. 16, in the auditorium of Longfellow Middle School, at 1500 Derby St. at 5:30 p.m. A special worksession on the Adeline corridor originally scheduled for that time has been canceled.
On the agendas
The 5:30 p.m. Berkeley City Council meeting has just one action item, related to social services for transition-aged youth in Berkeley. Notable consent calendar items include a plan to install beacon lights on Sacramento Street, where a 98-year-old man was struck by a vehicle and killed earlier this year, and a contract for $125,000 to hire a firm to help the city with outreach related to Measure M street and watershed improvements.
Following that meeting, at 7 p.m., the regularly scheduled Dec. 16 council meeting is set to begin. Action items include plans for proposed affordable housing at 3135 Harper St., and air quality in West Berkeley, as well as an increase in parking permit fees (up from $45 to $55 for annual residential permits, and from $125 to $154 for merchants, among other changes), and an increase to some camp fees at Echo Lake and the Berkeley Day Camp.
Consent calendar items of interest include plans to install more parking meters near Sports Basement in South Berkeley and Whole Foods on Gilman Street; an update and report on the goBerkeley pilot parking program; and the passage of a new city energy ordinance that would require property owners to pay for recurrent energy audits every 10 years. (See a supplemental report on that ordinance, and the ordinance itself.)
Copwatch “healing space” rally
Berkeley Copwatch has called a “Rally for Racial Justice and De-Militarization” for 5:30 p.m. at Longfellow. The group’s goal is to “end racial profiling and the militarization of the Berkeley Police Department,” according to a notice posted on Facebook.
“We will be holding healing space for police brutality survivors, protestors, and community organizers to share their stories and strategic visions,” according to the event announcement. “We will be centering Black and Brown voices at this event.”
Copwatch said the rally has been organized in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Black Student Union, the NAACP of Berkeley and the African American/Black Professional and Community Network. The Berkeley NAACP has been organizing in recent years to document what it believes are racially motivated police contacts, as well as unfair municipal employment practices.
This year, the city has stepped up its approach to police training related to racial profiling, and announced plans to improve its record keeping for police stops to allow for better tracking of police contacts and race-related data.
The department is known in its field historically for an emphasis on professionalism and higher education. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan has often described his officers as more educated and experienced than most, and says his department accepts a smaller percentage of its applicants than does Harvard.
In September, the New York Times identified Berkeley as one of the most racially representative municipal police departments among large urban areas across the nation. The article incorrectly states that Berkeley has more black officers than white ones, but goes on to show the department’s racial breakdown, and how it lines up with that of the broader community. According to the data, which is from 2007, the composition of officers in the department was 56% white, 18% black, 15% Asian and 10% Hispanic. Compare that to the broader community, according to Times data: 55% white, 10% black, 19% Asian and 11% Hispanic.
None of that, however, has precluded some community members from raising concerns about their treatment by Berkeley police officers in recent years, saying they believe they have been unfairly targeted due to race. In May, several black youth said police stopped and harassed them, and ultimately made two arrests, because they were jaywalking “while black.” (Department officials said officers initially responded to a dangerous traffic situation, and made arrests after the group failed to comply with repeated police orders. They said race had nothing to do with the stop.)
Also in May, the NAACP held a forum in South Berkeley on racial profiling that drew more than 100 people, some of whom described experiences they have had, or heard about, with Berkeley police that they believe to have been racially motivated.
One of the speakers announced for the Copwatch rally is Maria Moore, sister of Kayla Moore, who died in police custody in 2013. Her family also attended the NAACP forum in May, and has spoken out on a number of occasions about Kayla Moore’s death.
Moore’s family sued the city for wrongful death earlier this year, and said police used excessive force while detaining her, responded inappropriately to Moore’s transgender status and did not render appropriate aid as a result. (The lawsuit is pending, Maria Moore said by email Monday, adding: “we have no intention of settling, and I assume neither does Berkeley.”)
By Any Means Necessary rally and march
The group says it hopes to communicate its condemnation of the events of Dec. 6 in Berkeley when, it writes, “Police from across the East Bay rioted against the peaceful crowd, with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. They broke one person’s leg, inflicted other injuries, and indiscriminately arrested members of the crowd.”
See Berkeleyside’s live blog of the Dec. 6 protests.
Demonstrators had turned out that night to rally against the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and the subsequent failure of grand juries to indict police officers linked to those fatalities.
Last Wednesday night, approximately 10 people told the city’s Police Review Commission officers used force on them Dec. 6, and the panel voted to ask city officials to restrict the use of tear gas, over-the-shoulder baton hits and firing projectiles as forms of crowd control. Commissioners said they hope council takes up the issue as an emergency item this week, while the Berkeley Police Association said a full investigation should be undertaken before any policy changes are made. (Read more about that meeting.)
BUSD panel discussion set for Wednesday
Marches and protests related to police brutality have occurred almost daily in Berkeley since Saturday, Dec. 6. But the community has yet to have a broad, officially-sanctioned forum specifically designed to allow local residents to talk about some of the issues that have been raised nationally in recent months. To begin to address that, the Berkeley Unified School District has announced a panel discussion this week.
According to one notice sent out about the panel over a neighborhood email list, it will address “the pressing social justice issues related to the recent court decisions in the Ferguson and New York police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The panel will consist of local organizers, BUSD staff, and more. Our discussion will focus on how we as a community can have an open dialogue about structural racism and how Berkeley is responding.”
Berkeleyside has asked the school district for additional information.
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