The unusually packed Berkeley City Council chambers exploded into a shouting match Tuesday between Mayor Tom Bates and protesters demanding more information about the death of Kayla Moore, a 41-year-old transgender Berkeley resident and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
Moore, who died in Berkeley police custody on Feb. 12, became the focus of controversy during Tuesday’s council meeting. As the City Council attempted to move an item on mental health for further discussion later in the meeting, vocal protests erupted, eventually culminating in police officers forcibly removing one protester who refused to give up the floor.
Before the council meeting, protesters also held a rally in front of City Hall, holding signs stating, “We won’t forget Kayla!” and “Justice for Kayla (Xavier) Moore.”
Much of the anger in the room reflected protester frustrations about the scarcity of information regarding the case. Berkeley Police Department currently has a “press hold” on Moore’s autopsy report, and although the BPD has assured that the report will be released in the near future, the situation has resulted in strong criticism from members of the family as well as the community.
During the public comment session, two protesters ceded their speaking time to Arthur Moore, Kayla’s father, who directed most of his criticism toward Bates.
“I’m very, very disappointed that your chief of police put a hold on this case,” Arthur said to Bates. “We haven’t heard anything from your office stating that things are going to change … Nobody has said anything about my son. Nobody from your office. What I’m asking you to do is change your mind and give us some answers.”
Prior to the council meeting, much frustration was taken to the streets. On March 12, for example, about 70 protesters gathered at People’s Park and marched on Berkeley Police Department.
Though the protest was nonviolent, the anger was tangible as participants chanted slogans like “Vengeance for Kayla Moore.”
The march was soon followed by a birthday memorial for Moore, who would have turned 42 this year. The memorial also had a march with turnout similar to that of the march on Berkeley Police Department headquarters.
The council meeting, however, was not all emotional pleas and outbursts. Moore’s sister, Maria, proposed that the city have a mental health awareness month.
“What the city needs is more mental health services,” Maria said. “Let’s allocate those funds that would hire more cops to mental health services.”
The heated discussion on mental health and Moore’s death cooled down after the forced removal of one of the protesters. Councilmember Kriss Worthington emphasized that the council must focus on helping move the Berkeley community past this issue and toward a healing process.