On November 8, the already far-left city of Berkeley, CA, tilted further to the left when residents voted in an even farther-left mayor and city council.
In an 8-candidate, ranked-choice voting, City Council member Jesse Arreguín was voted mayor with 15,912 votes.
A Democrat Party activist who, according to his biography, “has been passionately committed to social justice from an early age,” 32-year-old Arreguín has never held a regular private-sector job, and is pro-rent control and an advocate for the “homeless”.
On December 1, 2016, Arreguín was sworn in as mayor.
The next day, December 2, at around 5:15 a.m., about 20 police officers, accompanied by Berkeley’s code enforcement manager Greg Daniel and Assistant City Manager Jim Heyns, raided a homeless encampment just north of City Hall and a block from a high school.
As reported by Tracey Taylor for Berkeleyside, the raid was prompted by the discovery of feces spread “over a period of 24 hours, at various places on or near City Hall.” The city also reported problematic behavior from campers including public masturbation and offensive chalk messages on the sidewalks.
City Manager Dee Willams-Ridley described in a statement a number of “problematic behaviors” that had occurred during the 72 hours before the police raid:
November 30: In the morning, feces was discovered spread across the back walkway and back gate of City Hall. Staff immediately responded and cleaned it. That evening, staff exiting City Hall found the front door, door handle and door glass smeared with feces. We immediately responded and cleaned it.
December 1: The front door, door handle, and door glass were once again smeared with feces. Residents and visitors conducting business with the City, employees and guests coming for the Council swearing-in ceremony were told to enter through the back door. The first floor bathroom inside the Human Resources Department was also smeared with feces.
December 2: The north entrance door of Berkeley’s historic Old City Hall and the heating furnace at the Veterans Building were covered in excrement.
Civilian staff – who have acted with great dignity and professionalism in cleaning up feces – have reported that they have been treated in a hostile manner by members of the encampment for cleaning up the excrement. In addition, civilian staff have seen members of the camp masturbate and engage in sexual behavior at the site. City unions have also expressed concern about working conditions.
In addition to feces, the city’s civilian staff also found paint and chalk swastikas and messages on the sidewalk advocating suicide and “Fuck the Police”. Altogether, the staff removed 12 cubic yards of garbage, food, end caps of needles, mildewed or soiled fabric, broken chairs, and other debris. There were no arrests and no citations.
Willams-Ridley said that prior to the raid, city staff and a city homeless outreach worker from the Mental Health Division had been visiting the camp for several weeks to offer resources.
This is not the first time the largely same group of homeless people has been asked to leave a camp on public property. There have been several similar raids over the past two months.
By lunchtime on Dec. 2 after the police raid, some of the campers had already set up on the sidewalk across from the former camp, on the corner of Center and Milvia streets.
Mike Lee, of the homeless advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless and former candidate for Berkeley mayor, said he was furious because newly elected mayor Jesse Arreguín had assured homeless leaders that he would stop such raids from happening and would be an advocate for the homeless.
Today, mayor Arreguín is bringing a number of proposals to the City Council which will include a recommendation to allow homeless camping in designated areas, the locations of which have yet to be determined.