On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council approved a moratorium that will temporarily prohibit the Berkeley Police Department from using tear gas, rubber bullets and over-the-shoulder baton strikes when responding to non-violent protests.
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan was reportedly absent from the meeting, according to the Contra Costa Times.
The moratorium was proposed by Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who stood in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter protesters as the crowd occupied the exterior of Berkeley’s City Council Chambers, notes the Times. Before Tuesday’s council meeting, Arreguin reportedly addressed the rallying crowd, using Iraq as a way to demonstrate his views:
It’s [tear gas] not even used in the streets of Fallujah [Iraq]. Why would we use it in Berkeley? We should be facilitating peaceful protests. After all, this is Berkeley, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
Over 100 students and protesters had reportedly started marching to city hall at 5:30 p.m. before half of them proceeded inside the chambers to address the council.
— Katherine Buckley (@kbucks25) February 11, 2015
The meeting was meant to address police response-related issues pertaining to vandalism and violence by #BlackLivesMatter protesters in December over the deaths of two black men in Missouri and New York. The delivery of “vitriol” from approximately 50 speakers ranging from students to the elderly reportedly nearly overtook the primary goal of the meeting, according to the Times.
“We’re here to remind people that black lives matter every day of the week,” said Berkeley High School senior Kadijah Means, according to UC Berkeley’s student-run newspaper the Daily Californian. Means is also president of the Black Student Union.
— HennessyGer (@GenesyHer) February 11, 2015
A request to recommend changes to the Berkeley Police Department’s crowd control tactics and use-of-force policies was also submitted to the Police Review Commission, the Times notes.
In addition to holding up signs and banners with “Stop police violence” and “Know Justice Know Peace,” the protesters reportedly sang songs from the 1960s civil rights movement.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz