The front of the Berkeley Police Department was covered in anti-police graffit on July 13, 2020. Photo: BPD
The front of the Berkeley Police Department was covered in anti-police graffiti on July 13, 2020. Photo: BPD

The front of the Berkeley police headquarters was covered in anti-police graffiti Monday night after a group of protesters calling for the police to be defunded ended their march there. It is unclear whether members of that protest were responsible for the act.

The March to Camp Out, organized by a group of youth protesters, including students from Berkeley High, began at 1 p.m. at Bushrod Park in Oakland. Participants marched to BPD headquarters where they remained for many hours. BPD put out a Nixle alert around 9 p.m. suggesting people avoid the area around Center Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way between Allston Way and Addison Street due to protest activity and related traffic issues. The event ended around 11 p.m.

The group numbered about 75-100 people at its height and dwindled to about 40 people, according to Officer Byron White, BPD spokesman, who said police “kept their distance.”

White said that, according to witnesses, three people were responsible for the graffiti, which happened shortly before 6 p.m. Two of them “were described as white female teens wearing dark clothing,” he said. At least one vehicle parked outside was also vandalized. A statue of BPD Sgt. Jimmie H. Rutledge, who was slain on June 16, 1973, was also defaced.

A community member said she witnessed young women scrawling “profane” graffiti on the front of the public safety building. The graffiti included slogans such as “Kill cops,” “The only good cop is a dead cop,” and ACAB, an abbreviation meaning “All Cops Are Bastards.”

She said one teenage girl “picked up a shredded American flag she had left on the grass, walked to the front door of the station and slid the flag pole through the door handle.” She said there was also “lots of chalking going on in the area.”

A local resident who drove by the activity around 6 p.m. reported on NextDoor having to turn his car around because Martin Luther King Jr. Way was blocked, and said there was “no police presence whatsoever.”

Monday’s protest was organized by a recently formed group called Youth Protect the Bay, according to Georgia Wallace who contacted Berkeleyside on July 9 to ask that the event be included on Berkeleyside’s running list of racial justice protests. On Instagram the group is described as a “primarily black woman lead group that is uniting Oakland and Berkeley.” The event’s Facebook page says: “Berkeley High School students are organizing a non-violent, peaceful march and sit-in on Monday, July 13th to pressure the Berkeley City Council to vote to defund the Berkeley police department by 50% at the Tuesday, July 14th City Council meeting.”

On its Instagram, the group is encouraging Berkeley District 2 residents to email Mayor Jesse Arreguín and other council members to ask them to support Councilmember Cheryl Davila’s resolution to defund the police.

Two youth leaders mentioned on the Facebook page are Shayla Avery and Ultraviolet Schneider-Dwyer, Berkeley High students who have organized a number of peaceful racial justice protests in Berkeley over the past few weeks.

Tweets by the East Bay chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America that documented parts of Monday’s protest show a lively, well-organized event that included a stand offering pizza, music, dancing and speeches, as well as participants sitting watching videos of police brutality projected onto the facade of the BPD building.

Attempts by Berkeleyside to reach Wallace, as well as Avery and Schneider-Dwyer, were not successful by press time.

White said police hoped to have the graffiti cleaned off at some point Wednesday.

Berkeleyside will update this story if we source new details.

Update, 5:45 p.m. Mike Cooper, who is President of the Associated Students of Merritt College, got in touch to say he was present for the duration of Monday’s protest and he believes the people who put graffiti on the police station were “tagalongs.” “The main protesters stopped the vandalizers, and the organizers reprimanded them and directed an entire speech to the crowd about the damage such behavior does,” he wrote Berkeleyside by email. Berkeleyside is still trying to find out more and will update the story when we do.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...