The Anti Police-Terror project denounces the decision of Mayor Jesse Arreguin and the Berkeley City Council to place more aggressive policing tools in the hands of the historically racist and violent Berkeley police department. On September 10th, at the Berkeley City Council meeting, a 1997 ban that prevents police from using pepper spray at protests, was modified to give police limited power to do so.
According to law enforcement, pepper spray is safer and more contained than tear gas and they need something because they are at a loss for how to respond to the protests that have been in the streets of the City since February.
Pepper spray carries on the air in the same manner as tear gas and has just as much potential to impact people beyond the intended target. Additionally, no warning is required before the police use pepper spray - as there is for tear gas - nor is there any requirement on the part of police for justification of why, when and on whom they use it.
According to the resolution, police are not allowed to use it on crowds but they can target individuals in crowds whom they deem “violent”. If both recent and past history teaches us anything - it is that those of us who pose the most risk to the State and its agenda that get categorized as violent. And there is nothing in the history of the BPD that should give the people any faith that they will operate inside of the rules. One only has to remember the murder of Kayla Moore, or look at the fact that they still refuse to release the full findings of their internal audit on racial profiling, let alone commit themselves to a plan for addressing the myriad of race problems that plague their department.
Each time the right-wing white supremacists have come to the Bay Area under the pretense of “free speech” - violent acts directed at Black, Brown, LGBTQIA persons and progressive businesses with Black Lives Matter signs in their windows have been committed. People have been called racial slurs, spit on and had their windows broken. Activists have been doxxed, had their personal information spread across social media platforms - including where they live and work, received death threats, have had to move into safe houses and bring security to meetings and court dates. Yet - none of these egregious acts of violence prompted Mayor Jesse Arreguin to attempt to classify these groups as gangs (as he is with Antifa) or inspire him to call for increased police aggression. Instead, the Mayor, has called for increased police violence against those community members who stand up and refuse to let hate flourish in the Bay. Even the Mayor himself admittedly received thousands of death threats from these same groups he is rushing to now defend.
This most recent move is little more than the continuation of an agenda that criminalizes dissent, upholds the tenets of white supremacy and empowers the frontline enforcers of white supremacy (law enforcement) to repress the masses. Jesse Arreguin - who ran on a progressive platform - has once again betrayed the very people, and values, that got him elected in the first place.
At the special city council meeting, held at 3pm on a Tuesday after only being announced the previous Friday, the police gave a completely absurd fabrication of the events that took place on August 27. They claimed that the organizers on the sound truck that was at the march were handing out shields and weapons to participants in the march. Organizers did have shields to give to people who were fearful about the all-too-common violence from white supremacists, who have maimed and murdered people very recently, including the death-by-vehicle murder of Heather Heyer in August 2017 and the multiple stabbings of people in Sacramento in 2016. There were absolutely no weapons distributed during the rally and it is deeply problematic for the police to be claiming anything else. Even Mayor Arreguin acknowledged later in the council meeting that the police narrative was “incorrect”, as he was present on August 27.