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UCPD's malice towards People's Park protesters
by Observer
Sunday Feb 3rd, 2019 11:40 AM
UC Berkeley displayed malice and cruelty to the People's Park protesters, whose personal belongings were seized during a police raid on the Park back on January 15th.

[This article is not written by a member of the People's Park protest, but by an outside observer.]
On the morning of Tuesday, January 15th, over 100 members of the UC police department and County Sheriff department cleared out protesters from the east end of People's Park, so the Expert Tree Service [2847 Shattuck Avenue, Phone: 510-845-6272] could cut down trees ahead of looming development. A few arrests were made and people's belongings were seized 'as evidence of a crime', including the belongings of people who weren't arrested. After the trees were cut, and the arrestees were released, the UC Berkeley police department chose to act maliciously towards the protesters by withholding people's personal belongings.

[Note: The UC claimed the trees (of various ages and species) in the east end were all simultaneously ill and posed a vague safety risk (would fall on passersby?), but many people found the claim to be dubious.]

A senior citizen's heart medication was withheld by UC Berkeley police for over a week. Fortunately the individual did not suffer a heart incident during this time, but if he had, his life would have been at risk. Representatives of the People's Park protest had to hire legal counsel to facilitate the return of the medication: Throughout the process, UCPD put up bureaucratic hurdles.

Also taken by UCPD were people's ID's, and EBT [Electronic Benefit Transfer] cards which are used by lower income people to access food benefits [an electronic version of food stamps]. These items were withheld for over a week, making it difficult for people to get food, and access social services during this time. The police didn't just take IDs, food cards and wallets from arrestees, but also from protesters who were not arrested.

A violin was taken from a musician during the police raid. The owner of the violin was not arrested, and in no reasonable way would the violin been used as evidence in any court proceedings, and yet the instrument was catalogued into evidence: Like the other belongings, the violin was held for an unnecessary amount of time.

The raid of People's Park occurred during rain. Seized property was put into evidence in a wet condition. When backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags were returned weeks later, they were covered in mildew and mold. One protester reported on Twitter: "I got my backpack back from UCB PD (2 weeks later) and most of the other gear, all wet and moldy":

There was no reason for UCPD to take any of this gear. When the police secured a perimeter around the trees, property could have been placed in the middle of the park for people to claim. There was no reason for the UC to load the gear into trucks and place it into evidence. Under no reasonable circumstances, would a court case about camping in People's Park delve into such minutiae that a jury would be shown - item by item - people's personal belongings. There is no dispute that a protest occurred in People's Park, and as such taking material evidence was unnecessary.

Taking people's belongings, withholding them for an extended period, and returning them in moldy condition was an act of malice towards the protesters, many of whom live in hardship. Rather than show grace, UCPD chose to act out of spite. It wasn't enough that the police broke up a protest camp, it wasn't enough that the police cheered and gloated as the trees fell down, but they had to take it to the next level by withholding property as trophies - spoils of conquest.

Despite the loss of the trees, there still are people - who in one way or another - are working to preserve People's Park. Despite the damage, the park is still there, and is nearing it's 50th anniversary this Spring. UCPD stopped one aspect of the protest, but has not ended the protest in its entirety. There are other locations to build housing in Berkeley. Even with the urgency for more housing, there is no pressing need to build on People's Park. The city and the UC can maintain a balance between living accommodations and accessible park space.

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