UC Berkeley police, guns drawn, raided an empty Long Haul Infoshop Wednesday morning, seizing 13 computers and other gear in a search for the source of threatening e-mails.
“We did execute a search and seized computers,” said Robert Sanders, the university’s media manager for science communications.
While Sanders didn’t offer details on the search, his role in covering recent threats to campus scientists conducting animal experiments may indicate the nature of the threats.
If so, it would confirm speculation during the search raised by several people at the scene.
Sanders has been widely quoted by journalists reporting on threats to Berkeley scientists, and concern was raised to a new level Aug. 2 when two firebombs targeted researchers affiliated with UC Santa Cruz.
Even earlier, citing “illegal and violent acts” against animalresearchers, the UC chancellors adopted a joint statement Dec. 5 that declared “We will pursue all means available to us to help bring the individuals involved in criminal behavior to justice.”
Others suggested the raid may have been the results of strong support of many Long Haul regulars for the ongoing tree-sit on the Berkeley campus.
The building, which houses a collection of individual organizations ranging from the Needle Exchange to Bread Not Bombs to East Bay Prisoner Support, was targeted by a team of at least seven officers.
According to the search warrant obtained by UC Berkeley Police Detective Bill Kasiske, officers believed the computers inside the offices at 3124 Shattuck Ave. contained evidence of felonies.
In addition to offering a home to individual groups, Long Haul board member Greg Horton said the building’s Internet room provided computers to give online access for those otherwise unable to afford it.
The document did not describe the alleged crimes nor did it name any perpetrators, and no arrests were made at the time of the raid.
In addition to computers and data storage media, the warrant targeted all written, typed or electronically stored documents containing information of people who used the computers inside the building.
Pattie Wall, an attorney for the Homeless Action Center (HAC), was working in her office next door at 3126 Shattuck when police knocked at the door. “They asked me if I had a key, and I said no.”
Wall told the officers to check with the landlord, the Northern California Land Trust, but the trust’s director wasn’t in, so the officers returned, telling Wall they
didn’t need a key.
After they asked if there was a rear entrance, the officers went down the center hallway at HAC, drawing their pistols as they neared the rear door, said Wall.
Then the officers walked out the door and to the back door of Long Haul and made their entry.
Meanwhile Wall called staff at the Long Haul, who rushed to scene, also bringing civil rights attorney James B. Chanin, who has an office in the block to the north.
Chanin said he was surprised by the warrant, since it didn’t identify any specific organization.
“I can’t imagine the judge knew that the building housed many different organizations,” he said. “It would shock me if the judge knew that.”
Chanin said that a warrant that targeted a specific group wouldn’t allow police “to go into a building and take everybody’s stuff. But that’s what I believe happened, and that’s not right.”
Ian Winters, executive director of the land trust and Long Haul’s landlord, said the raid was the first in his memory, “and we never had any problems even while Long Haul had the marijuana club here.”
By the time the raid was over, only monitors, keyboards and disconnected cables were left.
Kathryn Miller, another board member, said the seizure would prevent publication of the next issue of the radical newspaper Slingshot, given that all the material for the edition was stored on the computers.
The Slingshot is produced by one of four collectives that are listed on the Long Haul’s web page. The others are the Long Haul Infoshop, the bicycling advocacy group Cycles of Change and the Anarchist Study Group.
The raid drew a small crowd, with many of the observers taking pictures of the officers through the building’s front windows and later as they carried out the computer hardware.
Soul, a long-time broadcaster on Berkeley Liberation Radio, said the underground radio station had been impacted by the raid. “We had some of our stuff there,” she said. “They got our hard drive, and that really concerns us.”
“This is really amazing,” she said. “During all the resistance to the Gulf War and other times they never raided the Long Haul. It’s the church we go to. It’s the heart of anarchy in Berkeley.”
Soul said she believed the raid stemmed from the UC Berkeley campus police pressure on the tree-sit. “They know we’ve been associated with the tree-sitters.”
She also pointed to a Feb. 17, 2004, City Council resolution urging federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to refrain from taking any action to interfere with Berkeley Liberation Radio.
Chanin said he had contacted the National Lawyers Guild on behalf of the Long Haul tenants.
“I’m a neighbor, so they came to me,” he said.
The raiders were comparatively neat, taping severed locks and screws removed from lock hardware neatly on the walls next to the places where they’d been removed.
Several items, including a petty cash envelope, had been left neatly arranged in a doorway, apparently after officers had photographed them.
At the end of the raid, Detective Kasiske decline to say what police were seeking, and referred questions to Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, who had not returned calls by deadline time.
Campus police notified the Berkeley Police Department before the raid, said BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, “but our department wasn’t involved,” she said.
Law enforcement agencies traditionally notify another jurisdiction when carrying out operations in their jurisdiction, she said.
Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive director of public affairs, said he was unaware of the raid.
Zachary Running Wolf, the first of the tree-sitters at the Memorial Stadium Grove, was at the scene later in the morning, declaring that he believed he may have been a target.
The building had once housed a medical marijuana clinic, but that facility had closed months earlier, leaving many at the scene to speculate that the raid may have stemmed from animal rights activism.
The UC chancellors recently signed a joint letter deploring attacks on researchers who conduct animal experimentation, in the wake of two Aug. 2 firebomb attacks aimed at UC Santa Cruz researchers.
Berkeley researchers have also been targeted by protesters, including confrontations at their homes and vandalism.
For more information on Long Haul, see www.thelonghaul.org.