Who Won Historic Anti-Sit-Lie Debate at Jam-Packed Council Meeting, Tuesday? A Snapshot of Berkeley as It Unites, Finds Its Voice Against Alleged Injustices
It was to have been a working birthday for me. I can't recommend a working birthday too highly, especially if you are running from your age, and discover the soul of Berkeley in the process.
I had expected only to cover the Berkeley City Council Meeting, if for no other reason than to see if sit-lie protestors' last gasp would match its previous uproar June 12.
But first I received an email that the university had encroached in People's Park once more, so I raced to the park to find a young tree had lost three limbs to "pruning." Along Telegraph, I stopped in at Annapurna to check on a reported boycott related to sit-lie.
A crowd had gathered at Telegraph and Haste to see a bus door that had popped its moorings, leaving a gaping wound in the chassis, but at Annapurna, there was no boycott protest, only an empty T.V. Channel 2 van. Channel 2 had abandoned its media van parked outside Annapurna, and was interviewing people outside the Med about their views on the sit-lie measure.
Through staff at Annapurna and other sources, I learned that Channel 2, KTVU, had gotten word that the owner of Annapurna supported sit-lie. The tip was off by a city block; it was Craig Becker, owner of the Cafe Mediterraneum, downwind, who supported sit-lie, along with Roland Peterson, Executive Director of Teley property owners, who had been mis-identified by a lone protester as Annapurna's owner.
Annapurna is owned by Al Geyer, who, as an historic head shop owner, and "People's Park friendly." Roland Peterson told the lone protester at Annapurna he supported sit-lie but did not own the head shop, and the lonely protester left.
KTVU soldiered on with a man-on-the-street angle. Next day the intrepid mainstream
media vamps reported, in all seriousness, there had been a boycott of Annapurna.
I was beginning to think the whole (birth)day was a bust. And when I got to the sparse demo outside city hall, I told Michael Diehl, who organized several anti-sit-lie protests last year, that there weren't enough people for any fireworks at council.
Diehl said he expected a bigger crowd later. But the next day, he admitted he had, along with me, had his doubts.
What we didn't know is that Emiliano Ruiz, 19, a Berkeley boy from a political Mexican family, and a Berkeley Community College student-intern to Kriss Worthington, Dist. 7, had spent days leafletting at the Berkeley Marina July 4th, in downtown Berkeley, on Telegraph, in People's Park, and at university student housing co-ops to get out the opposition to what critics of the council majority called "ram-rodding" sit-lie onto the November ballot.
By 10 p.m. in council chambers, it became clear that Ruiz, who would like someday to run for city council, had scored a major coup, as council swelled (to capacity) with protesters, many of whom were students who complained this was all happening while they were on summer break and not here to object.
Carol Denney, Ann Fagan Ginger, 87, famed civil liberties attorney (who staged her own sit-in on the chamber's floor), councilmen Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguin, Pat Wall, who wrote a new crowd-pleasing version of her popular call and response routine from the previous council protest, Osha Neumann, and mayoral candidate Zachary Running Wolf Brown topped even themselves.
Gina Sasso, who died at 49 last year was remembered. Sasso had organized an anti-sit protest at Cody's before she died Another speaker dedicated her protest to Sasso. Since 1991's spirited volleyball protests, to her death, popular South sider, Sasso leaves a growing legacy.
District 5's Laurie Capitelli criticized Anderson for being "eloquent," and Anderson objected, saying he tolerated Capitelli's "lack of eloquence" without complaint.
Capitelli objected to councilmen, like Anderson and Worthington-- "playing to the [anti-sit-lie] crowd."
It now seemed the council majority, who would later claim victory, had won the battle for sit-lie but lost the war. Worse, for them, it had provoked the left to more unified action than wizened council observers had not seen in years.
"We've never in all our years at council seen anything like this," two veteran council watchers said.
Worthington, who earlier confessed to liking "Kumbaya," Anderson, Denney, Dan McMillan ("Who's filling your campaign coffers,") Russell Bates ("sit on this"), and a string of eloquent students had managed to revive a Berkeley 60's voice of civil liberties and justice.
After Mayor Bates bolted from the chambers, ending the meeting in confusion, Worthington not only played to the crowd, he led it in song, dance, and fierce opposition to the proceedings. The audience left chambers at 12:45 a.m. flushed with moral victory.
What remained but to invalidate the council majority decision to put sit-lie to the voters.
NEXT DAY, PRESS CONFERENCE, CITY HALL
At a hastily-called "press conference" in which no questions were fielded (but thoroughly answered after the press conference), and attended by only two local reporters and a few passersby, fifteen members of a coalition to keep sit-lie off the ballot formed a tight band of fellowship to keep alive the high-spirited hell-no from Wednesday morning at Council.
The tight band of fifteen sang two new verses to those at Council of "We Will Not Be Moved."
Speakers included Ruiz, Worthington, Neumann, and Diehl. Anderson succeeded in explaining his showdown with Capitelli, explaining it was not hurt feelings, but rather the sense that the council majority, especially the mayor, had lost sight of civility, Berkeley's best interests, and basic morality.
'It's not about me," Anderson said.
Students, who had researched the Brown act, read a list of legal breeches and further violations that could invalidate the council vote to ballotize sit-lie.
Afterwards, I questioned Ruiz, Arreguin, and Worthington. Wouldn't legal challenges to
the validity of the council's vote take precious, ticking-clock time needed to oppose sit-lie in November? Ruiz and Arreguin said "we must do both."
Worthington felt that a successful legal challenge to the council vote was, he didn't say it--a shot to the heart to derail the sit-lie juggernaut. He recalled a successful court challenge twelve years ago, during Mayor Shirley Dean's regime, to a budget measure that was subsequently kept off the ballot.
"We're seeking legal counsel on this," he said. Strategizing on-the-fly, Worthington predicted that he could maneuver a sequence of events, using filing deadlines and other tactics to create a situation in which "the Alemeda registrar of voters would have no alternative but to bar sit-lie from the ballot."
In an if I do this, and if I do that scenario, Worthington seemed to revel in anticipated victory.
Back at our office at the Med, I cornered Roland Peterson, whom many see as the sit-lie author, assisted by his boss at the property owners, President Craig Becker. Peterson and Becker had taken a drubbing in absentia from Osha Neumann, who characterized them as fat cats, smugly relishing their council victory.
"Look at it this way," I prompted, the fourth quarter game clock has run-out, but the refs re-convene the game. Just when you were ready to turn off your T.V. you had to sweat the game's outcome."
"But the other team has only time for one last play," Peterson rebutted.
"That play could change the outcome of the game," I suggested.
"They've already had their last play," Peterson concluded. "It's all over."
"Besides," Peterson added, "I've thoroughly researched the Brown Act, and their case is weak and difficult to make."
If sit-lie makes the ballot, opponents have shown they have the solidarity to resist. And the worthy intern to Worthington, Emillio Ruiz, 19, may have more get-out the crowds tactics up his sleeve.
If this be political defeat, who needs victory?
Our South side reporter is not adding another year to his age, 72, because he was working off his birthday, and 72 is the new 39 (jack Benny).