A Berkeley, California protest dubbed the March Against State Violence last December has landed the Berkeley and Howard Police Departments in a federal civil rights violation law suit. Following the murder of Eric Garner by an NYPD cop, protesters took to the streets across the country. One of those protests occurred on December 6, 2014, where the citizens of Berkeley united in soldarity. They were met by an angry mob. That’s right, an angry mob of police in riot gear.
The lawsuit, brought about by eleven complainants, states “The Berkeley police responded brutally, clubbing peaceful protesters and journalists, often from behind, some in the head, indiscriminately and unnecessarily, and using profligate amounts of teargas without justification.” The allegation is seemingly supported by the numerous videos taken that night which are posted on Youtube and have been shared through social media. Videos clearly show heavily armored riot units forcing protesters backwards on a crowded street. The protesters are cornered between them and another squad of riot geared cops, leaving the protesters screaming out, “we have no where to go.” Numerous officers are seen using standard police riot control techniques, however the protesters are obviously peaceful and the tactics seen in the video are not warranted by the demonstrated resistance.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court November 22. Neither City has responded as of yet. One of the problems the cities may face is their own documentation of events. When police officers use force, they are required to complete written documentation of every force incident to the best of their ability. In a riot type situation, officers are still required to document the force used and whom the force was used against. Obviously in a riot situation, no cop is stopping to get the name of everyone they thump. In that case a proper documentation of force would state :officer smith delivered a forward baton strike to an unidentified (male or female) subject causing the subject to step back and move to a retreated position.” This is just an example of what should be in the incident report somewhere, if proper documentation procedure is followed. Putting the pieces back together for litigation purposes, every individual officer’s use of force documentation needs to match the slew of videos taken that night, without exaggeration, or else the city will have to pay out big time. Even if the use of force is warranted, without proper documentation, it would appear that an attempt was being made at a cover up.
The protests lasted several nights, and resulted in nearly two hundred arrests between all agencies involved including the California Highway Patrol. The CHP made the majority of arrests when a large group of protesters damaged highway barriers and blocked off sections of Interstate 80. While police have again demonstrated their lack of empathy and understanding, it is doubtful it will deter the people of Berkeley whose history of civil protest dates back to the 1960s.