Crime, including a recent attempted rape, and health hazards have increased at Occupy Berkeley. Photo: Lance Knobel

Mayor Tom Bates told Berkeleyside today that the City of Berkeley is determined to avoid the kinds of confrontations that occurred in Oakland and other cities where Occupy movement encampments were removed, despite a decision taken to shut down the tent-city tonight.

“We are mobilizing tonight to protect the park,” Bates said. “We’re not interested in some confrontation. Basically it’s a zero tolerance policy, ratcheting up things. We’ll see how it goes from here.”

The situation in the park has worsened steadily, according to Bates. Last night, he said, there was an arrest for attempted rape in the encampment. There were several cases of food poisoning today as well, he said. He said no major confrontation was planned, but could not predict how events would unfurl tonight.

Bates said the decision to issue last night’s notice to the encampment, which declared that both the park closure and illegal lodging laws would be enforced from 10 p.m. tonight, came from the city manager’s office to the police.

“We’re not going to make any massive raid on people. That’s not going to happen,” he said. “We’ll have to see how things play out. A lot will depend on how people react to the notice. Maybe people will honor that and think it’s time to go home.”

Jesse Arreguín, whose council district includes Civic Center Park, told Berkeleyside today that neither he nor any other councilmember he had contacted was informed about the notice.

“Things in the park are pretty bad. But it’s a question of when and how,” Arreguín said. “I support removing the encampment, but I don’t know whether doing it now is the right decision. My concern is that it is going to worsen the situation. We’ve seen what’s gone wrong in other cities. I’m concerned that that does not happen in Berkeley this evening or in the next few days. I don’t know if they’ve thought about all these issues and are prepared.”

Arreguín said that decisions on enforcement were rightly made by the city manager, but that the City Council had made clear its wish to be kept informed on Occupy Berkeley. He said his calls today to Interim City Manager Christine Daniel had not yet been returned.

Bates said he felt that councilmembers had been adequately informed through regular discussions in recent weeks. “It’s hard to keep everyone advised of everything that’s going on,” he said. “The manager is operating under a framework of support from the vast majority of the council.”

Bates reemphasized the City Council’s broad support for the aims of the Occupy movement.

“We didn’t hassle them, we honored them, we set up additional toilet facilities, we bent over backwards to make sure there weren’t any confrontations,” he said. “People value the statement that was made here. They made their point. Berkeley is Berkeley. It’s not like they’re in Piedmont or Silicon Valley.”

Occupy Berkeley shutdown likely at 10:00 pm tonight [12.21.11]
Councilmember calls for zero tolerance policy on Occupy Berkeley [12.15.11]
How long can Occupy Berkeley last? [12.12.11]
Berkeley High concerned about Civic Park Occupy camp [12.01.11]
Occupy Berkeley remains, but experiment is proving fragile [11.28.11]
Occupy Berkeley consolidates camp, supports Oakland [11.02.11]
All quiet at Occupy Berkeley camp at MLK Park [10.26.11]
Berkeley joins 900 cities to condemn corporate greed [10.16.11]
Wall Street protests come to Berkeley [10.09.11] 

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...