On the Berkeley protests (opinion)

Councilmember Linda Maio Vice Mayor of the City of Berkeley
Tuesday December 09, 2014 - 10:25:00 AM

Dear residents,

This message follows the City Manager’s statement I forwarded to you yesterday. This one is from me.

The injustice that came to national attention in Ferguson and then Staten Island has deep roots, characterized by racism and fear, and it is widespread. It cannot, must not, be tolerated any longer. The police from these communities report they are feared and hated. They have the weaponry, authority, and power. Like apartheid in South Africa, there are two different realities, one far more powerful than the other. The question before all of us, as a community and as a nation, is where do we go from here to advance meaningful change.

I respect and support the demonstrations’ intent, but the violence and vandalism cannot be tolerated. I am extremely dismayed by the level of destruction and loss visited upon our city and its merchants. A small group of people have wreaked havoc on our Downtown, the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center, and businesses in other areas of our city. It is cowardly and senseless, accomplishing nothing but enmity toward the legitimate and peaceful protests, and their intent, which I support. 

Berkeley has an exemplary police force that is here to protect us. They have had to request mutual aid given the potential for violence. That means other police jurisdictions respond alongside our force. The mood was tense last night at the public safety building, where I was observing the protest, yet there was no violence at the early evening march. The late evening march was another matter. 

Some people have written about police abuses on Saturday and late last night. You have my word that we will look into every one. I trust our police will act in concert with Berkeley’s values. That does not mean that we will tolerate violence and looting in any form, and those participating in such acts will be arrested. 

Berkeley has a strong history of citizen protest coupled with nonviolence. We have heard there will be another demonstration tonight. Our goal is to support peaceful expressions of solidarity.