Berkeley Cop Fear

by Steed Dropout
May 11, 2014

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, a city official, right, tells how he won his lawsuit against Richmond Police; Mansour Id-Deen, President, Berkeley NAACP, left. Photo by Ted Friedman.


Berkeley Cop Fear can cloud men’s minds.

South Berkeley Community leaders, joined, Saturday, at the South Berkeley Library with as many as 150 concerned Berkeley activists, who renewed their opposition to alleged racial profiling, police brutality, and the american way.

Berkeley activists are up in arms over reports of a police clash, recently, between young black Cal graduates and City of Berkeley Police. The scuffle simmered, then erupted near a South Berkeley Whole Foods.

The young people were stopped, last week for what they claimed was jaywalking and began sassing cops until one of them was thrown forcefully to the grass, as recorded in a low-res cell-phone video.

As Emilie Raguso, reported in Berkeleyside, “the incident began Friday around 10:15 p.m. when an officer watched the group [of black students] cross Dana Street against the red hand signal and in front of oncoming traffic.”

“A near-accident prompted police attention.” Captain Andy Greenwood said two vehicles had to “brake hard” to avoid hitting the group. The officer then asked the group members to stop so he could speak with them.

“They said, ‘We don’t have to stop. He has no reason to stop us,’ Greenwood quotes them.”

“The group walked south on Dana, passing through bollards [traffic barriers] that prevent vehicle traffic, and our officer drove around the block to catch up with them on the other side, having just witnessed ‘a dangerous pedestrian violation,’ ” said Greenwood.

“An officer approached the group a second time, again told them to stop, and the group refused, according to Greenwood. Words were exchanged and the officer ultimately placed one member of the group…in handcuffs, which is around the time the video footage begins,” Greenwood told Raguso.

The students’ You Tube video records a handful of uncooperative black kids talking back to the power of Berkeley Police. Police talked back with alleged violence and arrests.

Whether the incident was merely a mix-up or police misconduct may wind up in court. In a rare defense of its actions, Berkeley Police officials said Thursday that “the [student] video has been taken out of context, and showed restraint by officers who were antagonized while trying to detain a group of pedestrians who nearly caused a traffic accident near Telegraph Avenue on Friday night,” according to Raguso.

Reliable reports that two of the young people were charged with resisting arrest, may be all that can be known at this time. The video seems to show what, in anywhere but Berkeley, would be deemed resisting, a serious, although misunderstood offense.

The video, seems to show two students (later arrested) taunting Berkeley Police for deploying five cop cars for a jaywalking offense and after more belligerence, one of the students, who had been repeatedly warned to back away, seems to touch an officer with her cell-phone.

As the student intuitively, or, by command (the audio is sketchy), recoils, the officer seems to come after her and throws her to the grass.

Cal students crammed into a large lecture hall on campus, Wednesday, to complain.


If you simply comply with police commands at a crime scene, you can diffuse hassles. But there was no crime, the young people say. The police have to determine that. Sound fishy, illegal or just dumb? The police arrive with an array of equipment, which puts them in touch with other cops and with a dispatcher. Even if they are wrong, their orders must be followed.

I faced a situation very much like the youngsters busted on Dana St. in 1970. Five cars surrounded me on Grove and University for a bicycle violation. My own yelling and screaming frightened me, as I watched, incredulously, as five cop cars roll in. “It takes five cops to give one guy a bicycle ticket? I foamed-at-the-mouth.”

“You were being obstreperous,” responded a young officer with sandy hair. “You say I was what?” I gawked.

I had just served three years teaching college English. After laughing aloud, I complimented the officer on his word-choice, possibly avoiding a resisting arrest charge.

Perhaps my obstreperousness was just the good-old days, when people were obstreperous, but didn’t resist arrest.

Read Steed Dropout’s alter-ego, Ted Friedman in Berkeley Times (South Side Tales), and on ted.friedman.56 (his Face book) and at Berkboy@twitter. His photojournalism can be seen at flickr berkboy

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