Bad Behavior By the Berkeley Police Department, Again
Like most of us here in the Bay Area, I've been following the brouhaha over the Berkeley City Council's latest anti-military shenanigans involving a U.S. Marines recruiting office and the "anti-war" (translation: pro-terrorist and pro-dictator) group, Code Pink.
In reading Melanie Morgan (of Move America Forward)'s report from the frontlines of yesterday's patriot protest/lefty counter-protest in Berkeley, I couldn't help but notice her description of the Berkeley Police Department's behavior. Here's what she had to say:
...The cops were openly hostile toward the people who showed up at 5:00 a.m., never stepping in to protect the patriots from the assaults that took place against elderly folks, Gold Star parents, Blue Star families and Joe and Jane Citizen who were waving the flags and showing their pride in the Marines. The police allowed hundreds of Berkeley High School kids (accompanied by their teachers) to gather with CodePink, receive their mandatory face masks and "F---k Bush" t-shirts, and allowed them to mill around our PA where they tried to cut the power cords to the system.I had a similar, but, in some respects, even worse experience with the Berkeley Police Department in 2005 when I covered a peaceful (and legal) anti-terrorism rally that was violently disrupted by jihadi-style protesters. And all with the help of the Berkeley Police Department.
Berkeley police repeatedly allowed CodePink to violate our permits, and never lifted a finger to stop their crowd from interfering with our activities until the very end, after we screamed blue bloody hell.
When Catherine Moy, the Executive Director of MAF called the police to tell them a riot was erupting in the early hours -- THEY HUNG UP ON HER.
Cat called the Highway Patrol, who referred her back to the Berkeley police -- WHO HUNG UP ON HER.
It was positively shameful.
Move America Forward’s attorney Jim Sweeney took depositions from ten people who were assaulted by CodePink, International A.N.S.W.E.R. and socialists who showed up en masse. The City Council has been notified by fax that we are filing a federal lawsuit for deprivation of our civil rights.
We didn’t start this fight, but we are damn sure gonna finish it.
The pro-troops demonstration is still going strong at 7:30 p.m. PST, with all streets around the Berkeley City Council closed off as the CodePinkos continue to receive preferential treatment by the Berkeley PD.
Move America Forward’s sound permit was turned off at 5:00 in the afternoon, while the Pinkos were allowed to use their system to sing Kumbaya and other 60’s peace chants.
Berkeley, the birthplace of free speech, is now officially the center of intolerant hatred for anyone who sticks up for the men and women who are fighting and dying to protect THEIR rights.
I wrote about it for Frontpage Magazine and here's what I had to say:
...About two hours into the rally, all hell broke loose. Up until that point, the Berkeley Police Department—as is customary at these events—had kept the two sides separate, with pro-Palestinian protesters, as boisterous as they were, remaining a safe distance across the street throughout most of the day. But all of a sudden, a police officer crossed the street and could be seen talking to some of the protesters. Onlookers assumed he was telling them to settle down, but instead he appeared to motion them towards the anti-terror rally. Pro-Palestinian and radical demonstrators from the International Answer and ISO use this as tactic at all their counterdemonstrations. That is, they mingle within the opposing crowd with Palestinian flags and anti-U.S. and anti-Israel signs, so when the media takes pictures it looks like their numbers are greater. That the Berkeley police would cooperate with them in this technique is disturbing. Around 30 young Palestinian men headed across the street and straight into the anti-terrorism crowd. The police officers, inexplicably, seemed to be escorting them rather than maintaining crowdNeedless to say, it was a rather shocking experience and I haven't looked at the Berkeley Police Department the same way since. I filed a complaint afterwards, but, I'm ashamed to admit, never followed up by attending the official hearing on the matter. So I'm gratified to hear that the Move America Forward folks are pursuing the matter this time around.
...Once on the other side of the street, the remaining police officers parted ways and allowed the unruly mob to disrupt the anti-terror rally. Screaming, “Allahu Akbar!” and pushing their way through the crowd, the pro-Palestinian protesters appeared as menacing as a similar mobs in the Middle East. But still, the police did nothing to stop them. Some members of the anti-terror rally shouted at the police officers, “Why aren’t you doing anything?” or “Why don’t you stop them?” The police officers ignored them, even as some of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted their desire to be “martyrs” in the background.
Once they penetrated the anti-terrorism crowd, the mob proceeded to try and rush the stage, but were immediately met by the rally-goers who stood up to their attempts at intimidation. Old men, even young women, all remained steadfast in the face of the thugs and, at one point, managed to push them back towards the edges of the rally. It was only then that the police finally donned their riot gear and stepped in. One of the Palestinian protesters, who had reportedly gotten in a fistfight, was hauled off and presumably arrested. It was later reported that others were arrested too. But this was little comfort to a crowd who had come to oppose global terrorism and been met with terrorism’s supporters and who were already disillusioned with their police “protectors.”
While I'm the last person to go after law enforcement (here in San Francisco, I'm something of a political defender of the SFPD), the puzzling and repugnant behavior of the Berkeley Police Department makes it an exception to the rule.
My guess is that Berkeley police officers are either sympathetic to the radical leftist and, at times, Islamist politics in their neck of the woods or are simply badly trained for dealing with such situations. But, either way, I wouldn't trust them for a second.
Update (2/14): In addition to the Zombie photos I linked to above, Protest Shooter has pics of the Berkeley protest here, here and here (h/t Bookworm). And underneath a photo of a group of police officers, he notes:
Update II: It seems not all who were at the protest agree with Melanie Morgan's impressions and, consequently, think I was too hard on the Berkeley Police Department in this instance. Since I was not present myself, I certainly can't say for sure. And I realize that law enforcement is put in an unenviable position in these cases, caught between two opposing sides and accused of "police brutality" by lefties no matter what.
And then #30, the guy on the left, decided to shove me - hitting my camera arm hard enough that I almost dropped my camera. It was totally uncalled for, too, I wasn't doing anything, and he said something about being too close to the police line but others were closer. I was facing away from the police line, having moved past it, and was still for some seconds. He had to walk over to me to shove me. Berkeley PD is very quick to go right to physical action instead of a verbal command - I know they whacked a lot of the anti-Marine protesters with batons when they got too in their face (none of the pro-Marine protesters gave them the excuse as far as I know).
Back in my counter-protesting days here in San Francisco, I always found the SFPD's strategy of keeping the two sides apart very effective. Rarely did any physical confrontations take place, let alone either side feeling that they were treated unfairly.
Perhaps the Berkeley Police Department's approach is less structured (although I do see photos of them trying to separate the two sides, at least temporarily) and that's why these conflagrations tend to occur in their neck of the woods.
But I'll never forget what I saw with my own eyes (as noted above) at the anti-terrorism rally in Berkeley in 2005. The Berkeley Police Department literally escorted the violent disruptors into a peaceful and permitted rally and then stood back and watched while all havoc broke loose, stepping in only at the last minute to make arrests on both sides. I don't know what kind of "strategy" was at play in that case, but it did indeed leave me with a lingering distrust of the Berkeley Police Department.