BERKELEY (KRON) — The City of Berkeley is still dealing with the aftermath of Wednesday night’s protest of a speaker on the UC campus.
It is one that spilled over into the city. On Friday, Berkeley’s mayor responded to criticism on how police handled the destructive vandals who were part of the protest.
“It’s a tough call, but I do support the decision of our police and how they handled the situation,” Mayor Jesse Arreguin said.
That vote of confidence for police comes from Arreguin.
Berkeley police have come under fire by some who question what appeared to be a hands-off tactic during a recent protest that started on the UC campus and ended with businesses vandalized.
“Our police did prioritize life safety over protecting property,” Arreguin said. “I think the fundamental concern was making sure that nobody was injured. Although there were a few assaults that happened, I think about five assaults that happened, some on the Berkeley campus, some in the community, a lot of people could have been hurt.”
Mayor Arreguin says the city is still calculating the cost of the damage to 12 businesses that were vandalized Wednesday night.
However, he says he knows that peaceful Berkeley protesters are not responsible for causing damage.
“Contrary to what people may say or how it maybe is portrayed in the press, Berkeley is not a violent reactionary city,” Arreguin said. “This was the actions of a small group of people who came into our community, they’re not from our community, and hijacked a protest to commit violence and destruction.”
Going forward, there are lessons to be learned, says Mayor Arreguin, like better coordination between Cal event organizers and the City of Berkeley.
“I think we really need to think carefully next time about how we balance the right for free speech with the need to protect public safety, and I think the university needs to be in more in conversation with the city about these kinds of decisions because the university is not an island,” Arreguin said. “(It is) surrounded by a city, and inevitably, there is going to be an effect on the community around it.”
UC Berkely police officials say they made one arrest for failing to disperse from an unlawful assembly during the protest.