Mayor Pushes Proposition 16 Protester at PG&E Advisory Meeting

Photo: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pushed Mark Toney, an opponent of Proposition 16, away from the podium at a PG&E advisory meeting Feb. 18. Bates also opposes the proposition, but according to his chief of staff Julie Sinai, his actions were in response to the protesters'
Luke Thomas/Courtesy
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pushed Mark Toney, an opponent of Proposition 16, away from the podium at a PG&E advisory meeting Feb. 18. Bates also opposes the proposition, but according to his chief of staff Julie Sinai, his actions were in response to the protesters' "aggressive" and "disrespectful" approach.


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Photo: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pushed Mark Toney, an opponent of Proposition 16, away from the podium at a PG&E advisory meeting Feb. 18. Bates also opposes the proposition, but according to his chief of staff Julie Sinai, his actions were in response to the protesters'    


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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates physically forced a protester away from a podium after opponents of Proposition 16 interrupted a PG&E-sponsored advisory meeting held at the David Brower Center in Downtown Berkeley on Feb. 18.

While Bates was giving his welcome remarks and thanking PG&E for its positive action within the community, protesters made their way toward the stage and took over the microphone before Bates reacted by pushing protester Mark Toney away from the podium.

Bates, who also opposes Proposition 16, could not be reached for comments Tuesday.

Bates' chief of staff, Julie Sinai, said the mayor's actions were a result of the "aggressive" and "disrespectful" nature of the protesters' approach.

"Mayor Bates completely supports what they were there to talk about," Sinai said. "He was on their side, but he was opposed to their conduct in aggressively interrupting the meeting."

Toney, the executive director of The Utility Reform Network, said the altercation was a result of a disagreement between Bates and the protesters about effective presentation of their argument.

Toney added that initial reports of the incident were exaggerated.

"The claims (of) a pushing and shoving match were completely overblown," Toney said. "Mayor Bates stated at the meeting that he was opposed to Proposition 16, and that's the most important thing."

Proposition 16 would require a two-thirds approval by Berkeley voters before local public electricity companies could provide services to residents. The proposition is being considered for placement on the June ballot.

Severin Borenstein, co-director of the Energy Institute at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, was also on the stage at the time of the altercation.

"Whatever it was, it was pretty minor," Borenstein said. "Nobody was hurt, nobody fell down."

But Luke Thomas, a blog reporter for Fog City Journal who was present at the meeting and blogged about the incident, said he felt like Bates was attacking the protester.

"I personally think it's a big deal, because you've got a mayor using physical force," Thomas said. "That's the bottom line here. We have a democratic right to protest. The city of Berkeley has received lots of money from PG&E, and that may be motivation as to why Mayor Bates didn't like the protest."

The protesters ended the demonstration when an agreement was made to assign a portion of the meeting's agenda to their commentary.

The demonstration was short and the meeting continued without further interruption or concern, according to Borenstein.

Tags: MAYOR TOM BATES


Contact Hailey Parish at [email protected]



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