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Press Release: City Councilmember Arreguin Proposes Plan to Improve Health and Safety of Occupy Berkeley Encampment

From Anthony Sanchez
Thursday December 15, 2011 - 06:40:00 PM

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín submitted to Interim Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel and Berkeley Chief of Police Michael Meehan this morning a Health and Safety Plan to address growing crime and public health issues at the ongoing Occupy Berkeley encampment.  

The Occupy Berkeley encampment, which was established on October 15, 2011 in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, has grown considerably over the past few weeks, as individuals from other encampments that have been disbanded have come to Berkeley. With the growing number of people camping in Civic Center Park, health and safety problems have also increased. 

Because of the growing encampment and the need to immediately address these issues to protect public health and safety, Councilmember Arreguín has put forward this plan to increase city enforcement of city laws and to implement new tools to protect the safety of people in the park and in the surrounding community while allowing law-abiding participants to continue camping as a form of political expression. 

“I strongly support the Occupy movement and its calls for economic equality for the 99% and I have wholeheartedly supported the right of individuals to camp as a form of political expression. Nevertheless, recent criminal behavior in Civic Center Park poses a threat to the safety of people who are camping in the park and the surrounding community and it is critical that we act immediately to preserve public health and safety,” Arreguín said. 

“This plan makes it clear to those individuals who wish to participate in the encampment that certain city laws are important to preserve the safety of everyone and will be rigorously enforced. Most participants are law-abiding and have a deep respect for the community. However, this plan is directed at the 1% of the participants who, ironically, have no respect for our community, our laws, and the 99% they purport to represent. This plan provides for new enforcement tools to prevent problem individuals from coming back to the park.” 

“All eyes are on Berkeley now to see what we will do. In keeping with Berkeley’s values as a compassionate and thoughtful city, we respect people’s right to political assembly and we hold public health and safety as paramount. This plan rightly recognizes that both values are not mutually exclusive and that a safe and healthy Occupy Berkeley encampment for the time being is a goal worth not abandoning.” 

The Occupy Berkeley Health and Safety Plan proposes that Berkeley Police and City staff immediately enforce a number of city laws and implement a Zero Tolerance Policy, which will result in citations, arrest -if necessary- and removal from Civic Center Park through the use of administrative Stay Away Orders for people who repeatedly violate city laws or pose a threat to public safety. 

Councilmember Arreguin will be meeting with the City Manager’s office to discuss next steps in implementing this plan.