Police warn South Berkeley to prepare for protests

Tonight's Berkeley council meeting is set to take place at Longfellow Middle School. Image: Google maps
Tonight’s Berkeley council meeting is set to take place at Longfellow Middle School. Image: Google maps

The Berkeley Police Department has released a warning to South Berkeley neighbors to help them prepare for expected crowds attending the Berkeley City Council meeting at Longfellow Middle School on Tuesday night.

See complete Berkeleyside coverage of the recent Berkeley protests.

Officials canceled last week’s council meeting, citing a lack of space for the anticipated turnout, and rescheduled it for tonight, Dec. 16, at 5:30 p.m. at the Longfellow auditorium at 1500 Derby St. near Sacramento Street. (There is a lift for ADA access at the northeast end of the building.) That will be followed by the regularly scheduled council meeting at 7 p.m.

Berkeleyside plans to live tweet the council meeting, as well as highlights from both protests that have been called tonight. Follow along on Twitter (no account needed). See the meeting agendas here.


The Berkeley Police Department has been using Nixle, an online alert service, to help neighbors stay informed about the recent demonstrations and other public safety issues. Those who are interested can see those alerts, and learn how to sign up. Many activists, journalists and others have been using #BerkeleyProtests on Twitter to share information about local demonstrations, as well.

In a Nixle alert released just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman, wrote that, “The meeting, which may go late into the night, is expected to draw a large crowd which may include protestors who may be loud. The First Amendment allows for the peaceful expression of free speech, including on-going loud and boisterous activity.”

(White also, at times, provides public safety-related information from police to the public on Twitter and Facebook.)

White said local residents may see “a large number of people walking through the neighborhood,” and that there may be a large crowd outside Longfellow as well. He encouraged residents to park in their driveways, and to bring trash receptacles and recycling bins in from the curb in preparation for the demonstrations.

White said people needing police services can call 510-981-5900 for non-emergency issues, and 911, or 510-981-5911, for emergencies.

He wrote that Longfellow was selected for Tuesday night’s council meeting because it is “the designated alternate site for City Council meetings that expect a large audience.”

Some commenters on Berkeleyside have said they are concerned about that decision, and about possible damage to the campus. Wrote a local resident using the moniker “Completely Serious“: “I’m going to one pissed on BUSD/Longfellow parent if there is graffiti or damage to my kid’s school.”

Two separate rallies have been planned to overlap with Tuesday night’s council meeting, including a Copwatch demonstration at Longfellow, and a By Any Means Necessary march from campus to the meeting.

Mayor Tom Bates announced Monday that members of the public who wish to speak about the protests will have time in both of Tuesday’s back-to-back council meetings:

“Following the recent protests in Berkeley, the Berkeley City Council will set aside time to hear public comments on non-agenda items at its special meeting that begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16., at Longfellow Middle School. The comments will be heard after the consent calendar, which is not expected to take very much time,” he said in a prepared statement. “There will also be additional time available for non-agenda public comments at the 7 p.m.regular Council meeting.”

City spokesman Matthai Chakko confirmed Tuesday that the meeting will be broadcast on B-TV Channel 28, and also online. He said Longfellow was chosen because council previously designated it as the appropriate place for meetings where large turnouts are expected, particularly because it is set up for broadcasting capabilities. The auditorium has a capacity of about 300 people, he said.

Chakko said he had not personally heard about any community concerns related to the school campus or potential neighborhood impacts, adding, “I expect that it will be a peaceful crowd.”

Berkeley council members Jesse Arreguín and Kriss Worthington are planning to introduce an emergency item Tuesday night to ensure there is enough time for speakers to express themselves about the protest, and for council to discuss the issues surrounding the protest as well.

“We want to make sure there’s adequate time for people to be heard,” Arreguín said Tuesday afternoon.

Both men were available to the public last Tuesday night during a demonstration outside Old City Hall that took place despite the cancellation of the regularly scheduled council meeting, and have called for an independent investigation about the recent Berkeley protests, particularly regarding why police used tear gas on some demonstrators Dec. 6.

Arreguín said Tuesday that the possibility of that investigation, as well as recent recommendations by the city’s Police Review Commission to suspend the use of tear gas and other types of less-than-lethal force options, remains an area of concern for him, and that he hopes council will be able to discuss those ideas Tuesday night.

Update, 2:25 p.m. Longfellow Middle School released the following “Urgent message to Longfellow Parents” on Tuesday afternoon: “Hello parents yesterday we made a call regarding the Berkeley City Council Meeting at Longfellow. We have heard reports of a rally taking place before the city council meeting. We are strongly encouraging parents of students in the Extended Day Program to pick your students earlier. Extended Day Program students can be signed out at early as 3:30 from the gymnasium. Please use the gymnasium entrance on Ward Street. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will be here for the duration of the Extended Day Program for families that are unable to pick up students earlier.”

In response to that notice, one parent told Berkeleyside: “Nice of the district and city to put our children at risk.”

See complete Berkeleyside coverage of the city’s recent protests, as well as highlights here of Tuesday night’s council agenda.

Related:
‘Double header’ Berkeley council meetings set for Tuesday, 2 protests also planned (12.15.14)
Police Review Commission asks for suspension of tear gas (12.12.14)
2 officials demand investigation into police tear gas use in Berkeley protest Saturday (12.10.14)

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