Police Response Limited as Occupiers Avoid Arrest, Take to Streets

Anne Marie Schuler/Staff

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Raw Footage: Feb. 26 Riot in Streets of Berkeley

In the early hours of Feb. 26, a riot broke out on the streets south of the UC Berkeley campus. Chaos ensued as the mob danced, chanted and resorted to vandalism.

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Riot Photographs
Images from last Friday's riot.

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UCPD did not have adequate staffing to address Thursday night's occupation of Durant Hall and had hoped for assistance from local police departments. But the help did not arrive in time to prevent the occupiers from taking to the streets in what would become an hour-and-a-half-long riot.

About 50 protesters occupied the UC Berkeley building at about 11:15 p.m., but UCPD did not respond until 11:49 p.m. and did not request assistance from the Berkeley Police Department until sometime between midnight and 12:30 a.m., according to Berkeley police Officer Andrew Frankel. The assistance did not arrive until after the occupiers left the building more than an hour later at about 1:38 a.m., according to UCPD Captain Margo Bennett.

"It's a given that when you have routine patrol staffing on board, that is not enough staffing to handle the taking over of a building," Bennett said.

"We've relied upon the working arrangement we have with the BPD, and ... upon the Office of Emergency Services through the county to help us with providing more staffing than we can provide."

Bennett did not specify how many UCPD officers were on duty at the time of the occupation.

Although the occupiers remained at Durant Hall for more than two and a half hours, the police departments did not muster enough of a presence to keep them from leaving the scene and taking to the streets.

"We requested BPD to assist us, and they arrived after the students left the building," Bennett said.

Frankel said Berkeley police can take time to leave other calls for service and accommodate a request for assistance.

The incident fell under the jurisdiction of Berkeley police as soon as the protesters moved off campus. Berkeley officers throughout the city responded to the scene with lights and sirens at 1:41 a.m. after a protester shattered windows of the Subway restaurant at Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.

At one point during the subsequent riot, all but four Berkeley police officers on duty had responded to the scene, according to Berkeley police Dispatcher Rayna Johnson. Two protesters were arrested for allegedly inciting a riot and resisting arrest, among other charges.

Off-duty Berkeley officers as well as 19 Oakland officers, 10 California Highway Patrol officers, five BART police officers, two Alameda County Sherriff's Office units and officers from the Albany Police Department also responded to the scene, according to Frankel.

Two Berkeley police officers received minor injuries but did not require medical attention.

Bennett said UCPD recently completed annual crowd control training.

Frankel said the Berkeley Police Department also trains for crowd management and implemented its procedures at the riot Friday.

"(It took) an hour and 20 minutes to deal with a crowd of 200 with limited resources on scene," he said. "Even after an hour and 20 minutes, we've got two broken glass doors and some scorched garbage cans."


Tomer Ovadia is the city news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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