Berkeley Copwatch's People's Investigation into the events of the #BlackLivesMatter protests in Berkeley, CA on the night of December 6th.
Summary of Events
Reported Damage to the Community
Copwatch maintains that the police response to the December 6th “Black Lives Matter” protests included widespread injury (gassing and beating) on Saturday night because of poor police leadership decisions and questionable management practices. For similar reasons but using very different strategy on December 7th, police again were unable to positively impact the situation of a large protest that included people who wanted to break windows and, in some cases, physically attack other members of the protest. As we analyze the causes and costs of the police response, let us remember the consequences of that night for the community and protesters. There were many costs to individuals, businesses, police and to our community as a whole. Let’s consider:
Individual Strikes by Officers
Cindy Pincus, an intern minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, was struck in the head with a baton, causing her to be hospitalized and recieve staples to treat her injury.
“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”
- Some individuals received serious injuries to their heads and scores of people were unnecessarily struck by batons. This video shows Baton strikes and tactical mistakes
- Joseph Cuff, an elderly man known throughout the community, was unnecesarily struck with a baton thrust that caused him to stumble backwards and fall over a dog that was behind him. This escalated tensions between police and the crowd. Viewing the footage, what purpose could that baton strike have served and why should it be allowable?
- The mass gassing of hundreds of people regardless of whether they had been involved in the protest on occasions, including at: 10:20pm, and 1am.
Less Lethal Rounds
Allegations of the firing of less lethal rounds have been ignored by the BPD report and recommendations. Officers reported to the Police Review Commission (6-10-15) that they don’t know how much ammunition they gave out that night and now they recommend that they should do a better job in the future.
- Less Lethals being shot at people included foam and ricochet rounds.
- Dr. Keith Koga (Case#2014-00072027) reported being struck in the back by a rubber bullet.
- Berkeley PD Dispatch reported that “Fred’s Market man shot w/projectile BFD loaded w/rig” at 12/06/2014 23:18:35 and “Subj shot w/projectile transported to ABH” 12/06/2014 23:22:22
First Amendment Rights
- These rights were abridged by the use of skirmish lines that had no real objective, provoked confrontations and only escalated tension between police and protesters. The first amendment was also abridged by pre-emptive and unjustified demands to disperse.
Attacks on Journalists and members of the press:
Militarization of Police
Reported Damage/Injury to Police
Officer injuries, according to BPD Injury Report*(insert Injury Report) 19 officers reported injuries from 12/6/14 to 12/13/14. There were four minor injuries due to projectiles. Other injuries occurred in the course of making arrests or other activities while on the job.
- Caused by fall during arrest. Injury to neck, shoulder, elbow
- Fell during arrest
- Hit on right pinkie finger with a brick ½ inch cut
- Brick thrown to right foot - bruise
- Pain to various body parts due to long shifts
- CSO videographer was hit with a rock
- Hit w/ 40lb bag of sand
- Running to catch suspect. Fell scraped knees and elbows
- During an arrest - scraped elbows and sprained knee
- Chased suspect and twisted knee
- Garbage can kicked at cop. Hurt knee bruised it, etc.
- Scraped knees and strained neck
- Injured right shoulder during a bike arrest (for a traffic violation)
- Riding in the van during a bad turn. Hurt back against metal bench in van.
- Arresting a drunk person “My right and left thumbs were injured when I started striking him with both closed fists”
- Riding in van during sudden stop/bump in the road (2+)
- Hurt lower back and oblique exiting van in full riot gear.
Reported Damage to Businesses
The BPD released a pdf* file of property damage from the December 6 and December 7, 2014 protests. This police report includes only some of the damage that was assessed and some business owners had not gotten precise estimates of the damage. Based on the preliminary damage estimates, it is safe to say that the damage was in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars. BPD officers made contact with affected businesses and documented their contact with the owners and employees. However, BPD gave no indication that any active cases resulted from those incidents of property damage. At their report to the Police Review Commission on June 17th, police representatives indicated that there were no active cases currently being investigated.
Although a greater amount of property damage happened on Sunday December 7th , than on Saturday, it is important to see these two incidents as being very related. The Sunday march was called in direct response to public perception that the police response on Saturday night had been violent and unnecessary. The protest attracted hundreds of people or more so the message of the protest clearly found some support within the community.
The police response to the protests changed dramatically from Saturday to Sunday. On Saturday, police set up skirmish lines and tried to directly determine the direction of the march. On Sunday, police kept a very low profile and seemed to appear intermittently and without engaging the protest. Although the police did not escalate actions, the level of property damage and incidents of violence within the crowd went largely unchallenged. In fact, at one point on Sunday, some protesters smashed windows at City Hall and there was no police presence or response to these actions. Police did establish a skirmish line in front of the Public Safety Building but otherwise, the crowd was allowed to roam Berkeley freely with officers periodically driving up behind the protest with full lights and sirens.
We want your input!
Responsibility for the conduct of the police is a civilian issue and is the responsibility of the civilian authority, if the civilian authority actually controls the police. At this point, we should should address our grievances regarding police conduct to the civilian authority of the mayor and council.
We should be asking how many officers were disciplined in relation to the events of last December and whether any BPD leadership has been disciplined, censured, or even mildly critiqued? Should they be? Was anything wrong with the Berkeley Police Department response to the Black Lives Matter protests of December 2014? Was it individual police misconduct, policy deficiencies, leadership issues or structural imperatives that resulted in so much damage to the health and welfare of our community?
Can they be reformed to support the idea of community safety?
Tell us what you think!
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