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Advocates from Liberty City attend Police Review Commission hearing Wednesday

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MAY 13, 2016

Advocates from Liberty City attended a hearing Wednesday to discuss the Berkeley Police Department’s involvement with the dismantling in December of the homeless occupation at Old City Hall.

The Police Review Commission, or PRC, hearing featured a presentation from Capt. Andrew Greenwood, the commander of the Operations Division of BPD, a statement from a Liberty City protester and a discussion among the commission. Participants from Liberty City were not present at the meeting, however.

“We heard that the community wanted an opportunity to tell us what happened. We created a space, we publicized it and they’re not here,” Commissioner Alison Bernstein said at the meeting.

Several supporters and participants in Liberty City, including  Guy “Mike” Lee — a Berkeley mayoral candidate and member of the homeless community — have taken a stance of noncooperation with the PRC and refused to attend the hearing.

“The PRC will go with BPD,” Lee said. “They’re not interested in what we have to say.”

Because of the lack of Liberty City supporters and participants present, only Greenwood presented on the topic. Before the open discussion, Genevieve Wilson, co-chair of the Berkeley Homeless Task Force and Liberty City advocate, read a statement from Mike Zint, a homeless organizer and one of the Liberty City participants facing charges for illegal lodging at Old City Hall.

I am unable to attend. I cannot afford the transportation,Zint said in the statement. “All I have to say is BPD and the city dictated what type of protesting was allowed, who could participate and how long you could protest.”

Zint additionally expressed his frustration over the city confiscating the personal property of the homeless during the disbandment. Zint said the city removed 2,500 dollars worth of his equipment, for which he had spent a year saving and cannot currently replace.

During the hearing, Wilson stated Zint’s absence was very telling about the current economic state of Berkeley.

“A parable is a story where there is a lesson that comes through, one main point,” Wilson said. “I feel like this is probably a parable for us: Mike Zint himself is not able to be here because he could not afford to be here.”

Greenwood also gave a presentation describing the timeline and thought process behind the disbandment. He explained that the occupation violated the California Penal Code Section 647e regarding illegal lodging and stressed that the disbandment was “a citywide, multi departmental decision.”

He added that the city’s Neighborhood Services issued four notices to the encampment before its removal and that written notices are not required by the law.

“Theoretically, the city could have chosen to immediately enforce. … The written notices are a reflection of the city’s sensitivity to wanting to be transparent and wanting to give warning and not make sharp, sudden moves,” Greenwood said.

The next PRC meeting will take place May 25.

Contact Brenna Smith at [email protected].

MAY 15, 2016