Press Release: Labor Activity on Fifth Street and Gilman, specifically 1305 5th

From Sgt. Mary C. Kusmiss S-6, BPD Public Information Officer
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 09:16:00 PM

“GMP Union Local 164B has been engaged in a labor action the last two days. The group is picketing for fair wages and healthcare benefits. Yesterday, the Union leadership told City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) personnel that they anticipated approximately 100 picketers at a time on 6 hour shifts around the clock until the issues are resolved. They have and are carrying signs but no amplified sound. (bullhorns or the like) 

“The BPD mission is to insure the community and in this case, the union membership, the right to engage in free speech activities/union activity/picketing to the extent that they do not violate law. BPD protects the union membership from counter activity as well, if necessary. BPD has a long history of experience not only with protests, demonstrations but also union/labor activity.” 

“Today, March 22, 2011 City of Berkeley Police Officers (BPD) specifically our Crowd Management Team (CMT) who have specialized training in crowd management, crowd dynamics and behavior were monitoring the labor activity to insure a peaceful expression of the union membership’s rights and also making certain that there is no unlawful activity during these events. The CMT leadership estimated the crowd size between 100-125 participants. The focus of the picketers attention the last two days has been a third party shipper on 5th and Gilman Streets. (1305 5th) The groups apparent intent was/is to impede and/or block the entrance/exit used by the truckers who freight product from Steel Casting. The group was involved in this tactic yesterday, Monday, March 21st and today. This is unlawful activity that is not protected union activity.” 

“As we do at all demonstrations, BPD attempted to liaison with leaders and gain voluntary compliance. BPD also gave sufficient warnings before moving the crowd back, as we want to ultimately gain compliance and/or if necessary employ minimal force if possible. Today at a couple points, CMT members were asking the crowd/picketers to move back, stop blocking the roadway and the entrance to the shipping/freight business. The crowd was asked to get back and many warnings were given. Each time a member of a skirmish line moves forward as a group, they are trained to say, “Move!, Step Back. Move.!” Force was used. A woman (who shared that she was pregnant) was at the front of the crowd and was pushed back on the shoulder a couple times by a CMT member. The crowd began to surge and the woman said she was struck in the stomach by an officer. As a precautionary measure due to the pregnancy, she was assessed by City of Berkeley Fire Department (BFD) paramedics and transported to a local hospital for further assessment. She has since been released.” 

“Crowd Management in general is one of the more dangerous and unpredictable activity that police officers are involved in. Crowds can be unpredictable, surge, throw objects and have intention to do harm.” 

“BPD completes after event review to include any video that may be available. If review indicates that any inappropriate use of force was used, BPD will take measures to address it.”