Berkeley slashes social services while police budget continues to grow

Last week, on the one-year mark since Big George Floyd’s death, Berkeley City Council proposed a budget increase for the Berkeley Police Department. Berkeley Copwatch and other abolitionist organizations are meeting on the steps of Berkeley City Hall at 2180 Milvia calling for defunding Berkeley police every Wednesday at 12 p.m. until the final passage of next year’s budget. Come out Wednesday, June 2, at 12 p.m.!

Community network stages weekly noise protests

Berkeley, Calif., May 31 – A growing network of community organizations is holding weekly demonstrations on the steps of Berkeley City Hall at 2180 Milvia every Wednesday at 12 p.m. until the final passage of next year’s budget. This Wednesday, June 2, will mark the third week this diverse and dedicated group of activists has come together with a “noise demo,” demanding to be heard by their city representatives.

The city manager proposed a budget that increases funding for the Berkeley police, despite the city’s supposed commitment to “reimagine public safety” and decrease funding to the police. These increases were formally presented to the public during the first of two “public hearings” at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting – on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. 

Furthermore, community organizations challenge the narrative that the “City of Berkeley prides itself in its support of community-based organizations and the incredible extension of critical services these agencies provide Berkeley residents.” This statement, pulled directly from the budget, seems entirely disingenuous when immediately contradicted by the revelation that support for these services will be slashed by 22 percent, almost a quarter of the entire budget for community agencies.

City audit showed that BPD stopped Black people at a significantly higher rate than their representation in the Berkeley population – 34 percent compared to 8 percent. BPD failed to capture data on how many calls involved unhoused people or those with mental health issues. 

This week’s demonstration will highlight speakers from the Berkeley Community Safety Coalition, a multi-generational, Black and Brown-led coalition. The organization’s steering committee includes former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport; “Mama” Ayana Davis of Healthy Black Families; boona cheema, former executive director of B.O.S.S. for 40 years; and many other deeply connected community members.

According to the city audit, BPD stopped Black people at a significantly higher rate than their representation in the Berkeley population – 34 percent compared to 8 percent. BPD failed to capture data on how many calls involved unhoused people or those with mental health issues. 

The City Council pledged to reimagine public safety and re-invest city funds into youth programs, violence prevention and restorative justice programs, domestic violence prevention, housing and homeless services, food security and more, yet none of this support seems to have found its way into the actual budget. Wednesday’s organizers demand that City Council follow through now, in this budget cycle, and hold themselves accountable to the community.

For more info on the Care Not Cops campaign and our Five Demands for the Specialized Care Unit (SCU), go to www.berkeleycopwatch.org/care-not-cops. For more information on Berkeley Community Safety Coalition please visit www.berkeleycommunitysafety.org.

The Network for Care Not Cops is Berkeley Community Safety Coalition, Berkeley Copwatch, Berkeley Tenants’ Union, Cops Off Campus, Friends of Adeline, South Berkeley Mutual Aid Project, Latinos Unidos de Berkeley and Where Do We Go? Berkeley.

Berkeley Copwatch, a multi-generational, Black and Brown-led coalition dedicated to defunding the police, is located at 2022 Blake St., Berkeley, CA 94704. Reach them by phone at 510-548-0425, email berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com and online www.berkeleycopwatch.org.