December 22, 2011
Occupy Berkeley raided by police; officer threatens to shoot videographer
Occupy Berkeley, the last Occupy encampment in the Bay Area and one of the last on the West Coast, was raided by local police last night and early this morning after the city informed activists that camping would no longer be tolerated in the downtown park.
“We had no intention of doing what people are calling a raid,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the Berkeley Police Department’s public information officer. “A group of officers and public works employees went to take away some abandoned tents and the truck they were using was surrounded by a very entrenched group. The truck was completely surrounded. Force was used in response to that.”
In this graphic Youtube clip (courtesy of OccupyNewsandMedia), one officer threatens to shoot an activist for not backing up in a timely fashion and another officer can be seen hitting an activist in the face with a baton.
Kusmiss said police and protesters engaged one another twice during the night. Once prior to midnight and again at about 2 am. She said police and city personnel were trying to clear the park of abandoned tents and other camping gear.
“When Occupiers saw that public works crews were trying to take the tents they tried to free them,” she said. “There was a little back and forth there.”
An activist who identified himself as “True” described the evening’s confrontation as a “battle.” He said they were able to get some of their gear back from the officers and city workers.
“We massed on them,” he said. “We grabbed all the gear we could and ran the fuck off.”
Two arrests were made. One for resisting arrest during the second interaction. That man sustained injuries during his arrest and was treated by the Berkeley Fire Department. Kusmiss did not know the extent of his injuries, but an activist who identified himself only as Mike said he had several “lacerations” on his face.
The other arrest occurred, according to Kusmiss, when three people showed up at the Berkeley Police Station, which is across the street from the Occupy Berkeley encampment. A man wearing a mask and wielding a crowbar was charged with being drunk and police later found him to be in possession of amphetamines.
Occupy activists said police and public works employees drove vehicles onto the park lawn and over tents. Kusmiss said she could neither confirm or deny this allegation. Activists said the police had no way of knowing if the tents were occupied or not.
Kusmiss said the Occupy Berkeley encampment had changed since the camps in San Francisco and Oakland were broken up, including a spike in offenses as well as violent crimes. A man was charged last week with attempted rape on a female camper, she said.
Some activists confirmed that the encampment had devolved in recent weeks.
“The problems all start and end with alcohol,” said Neal Balber, who is camping at the park. “Alcohol is the whole problem with the camp.”
He said there has been a recent rash of what he called “domestic problems” and said there was one man in camp who has “a history of bothering women.”
Kusmiss would not comment on why last night was chosen to cite activists for being in the park after 10 pm. A city ordinance mandates the park be closed from 10 pm to 7 am and to date the city had not been enforcing the rule.
A recent tent count by the city indicated there were 107 tents in the downtown park. As of this morning, there were still at least 20 tents in the park, as well as a lot of camping gear strewn throughout the park.
Kusmiss would also not comment on whether or not police would return to the camp to clear out the rest of the encampment but said they would be keeping tabs on it.
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