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Press Release: BATESGATE: Mayor’s Mistakes Censor Free Speech in Berkeley

From the office of Councilmember Kriss Worthington
Wednesday July 11, 2012 - 03:12:00 PM

After sixty (60) residents spoke and sang in opposition, Mayor Tom Bates forced a vote last night on the Anti-sitting ordinance without debate from council. At a press conference this afternoon at Berkeley City Hall at 3:30, members of the public and City Council will say what they would have said if the Mayor had not stopped them from speaking: 

1. POOR PROTEST MANAGEMENT*: When protesters were singing, the Mayor should have asked one of the many police officers present to give a warning to stop singing or leave the room so the meeting could proceed. Most would have sat and listened. A few may have gotten arrested as civil disobedience against criminalizing the homeless. 

2. POOR MEETING PLANNING: With multiple controversial agenda items the items could have been split into two meetings so no one would have to wait until 11 pm to speak. A larger room is available one block away that could have held all the people at Berkeley City College. 

3. ALLEGED BROWN ACT VIOLATION: The Mayor and four Council members are alleged to have discussed in the back room how to get this voted on tonight. 

4. ALLEGED BROWN ACT VIOLATION: members of the public were denied a chance to speak before the motion was allegedly vote on. 

5. SUPRESSING FREE SPEECH OF COUNCIL MEMBERS: Three Members of the City Council pressed their buttons to speak but were not called upon to speak. 

6. No Council member was allowed to make a substitute motion, even though Jesse Arreguin had presented a written proposal that was accepted at the same time as the Mayor’s new proposal. 

7. The Mayor introduced a revised version that Council members and the public were not allowed to see in advance. 

* The Mayor mismanaged the meeting to the extent that there is question as to whether the vote is legitimate. 


“As a homeless mother with three small kids, our survival required us to sit on sidewalks to perform and ask for money. To make sitting illegal is unnecessary and undermines our civil liberties and rights to survival.” 

--- Janny Castillo, Former Homeless Single Mother 

“This ordinance will have devastating effects on day laborers. They depend on sitting in commercial districts to earn their livelihood and this measure would criminalize that behavior and lead to deportation.” 

--- Alejandra Alas, UC Berkeley Student 

"From its beginning in backroom deals to last night's travesty of a vote of questionable legality Mayor Bates and the proponents of this ban on sitting conspired to do everything possible to prevent public input and democratic discussion. They know the level of outrage their proposal is generating. Now, I think they've gone too far. I think they cooked their own goose.” 

--- Osha Neumann, Attorney and Civil Rights Activist 

“It is critical to hear the voices of the youth who have been showing up in large numbers at City Council meetings only to be told that there is no room in the council chambers. If the youth get to this podium they are often told to keep their comments short. This is clearly a violation of their freedom of speech” 

--- Boona Cheema, Building Opportunities for Self-Sustainability