Berkeley Passes Urgency Ordinance Ahead of Protests
As Berkeley braces for another alt-right rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday, city council members have made changes to way the city responds to unauthorized demonstrations.
In a 7 to 1 vote Friday, the City Council gave the city manager more power to issue rules for protests in which organizers have not received a permit. That includes banning items that could be used as a weapon.
The Berkeley municipal code previously allowed officials to impose rules on unauthorized events in public parks, as they did April 15, when police prohibited an array of items — from eggs and baseball bats to ice picks and rocks — from coming into Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.
But if demonstrators spilled onto sidewalks and streets outside the park, as they did in April, the police lost their authority to seize the weapons. The ordinance passed Friday, which immediately went into effect, eliminates that restriction, according to the proposal, to preserve “public peace, health, and safety.”
Not everyone was in favor of Friday’s vote. Some members of the public worried it would give too much power to local police. To address those concerns, the council added some amendments including a sunset date of Dec. 31.
Berkeley’s next protest, which has been described as an “anti-communist” rally, is the fourth of its kind this year. The last event in April turned ugly, as members of the alt-right clashed with counter-protesters from the far left Antifa group. Two individuals are facing criminal charges in Alameda County as a result.
Law enforcement officials from across the Bay Area will mobilize to assist Berkeley with its upcoming rally if necessary. Mayor Jesse Arreguin has asked residents to stay away from the protests.