By Doug Oakley
Fed up with the violence, crime, drugs, dog bites and filth, officials are increasing the pressure on Occupy Berkeley at Civic Center Park with threats of more arrests and citations.
Councilman Jesse Arreguin, whose district includes the park, wants to start issuing stay-away orders to troublemakers. He also said closing down the camp, previously off the table, has emerged as an option but as a last resort.
The city manager's office on Wednesday handed out a four-page memo to campers saying that "the situation in the park is unacceptable" and put them on notice that more arrests and citations, including for unlicensed or unvaccinated dogs, are on the way.
Earlier in the month, Berkeley High School's principal sounded the alarm to parents with a letter that said the camp across the street from the school is making it more difficult to police his 3,000 students at lunch and after school.
The notice released Wednesday details some of the 23 crimes recorded by police related to Occupy campers since Oct. 23.
On Dec. 10, an Occupy camper arrested on suspicion of stealing alcohol from a nearby Safeway was found in possession of a machete, a hammer, a gas mask and a BB gun and was on probation for battery.
On Dec. 6, there was a fight in the park involving 30 campers that stemmed from an earlier "fight between a man and a naked woman where the man dragged the naked woman out of his tent and slammed her to the ground," the notice said. When police arrived, the crowd started chanting, "(Expletive) the police."
Also on Dec. 6, a person was hit in the head with a two-by-four, and the suspect who was arrested was in possession of methamphetamine, police said.
Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said the notice speaks for the city manager's office.
"It's what we've been saying the whole time," Clunies-Ross said. "We're monitoring it on a day-to-day basis."
Jake Lee, 20, who is from Michigan, said he came to Berkeley after participating in Occupy Portland and Occupy San Francisco, both of which were shut down. He said those truly interested in the Occupy movement are not the troublemakers.
"There's nothing wrong with the city not wanting guns or big-time drugs here," Lee said. "And there are a number of people here who just don't care about the movement."
Arreguin said he had meetings this week with the city manager, the chief of police and the city attorney about using stay-away orders for people arrested in the park.
"It's not OK for someone to be beaten up with a two-by-four, and it's not OK for a woman to be sexually assaulted there," Arreguin said. "This is not something the city government wants to happen."
Arreguin said he spoke to the city attorney, who told him the use of stay-away orders probably could be used against offenders in the park.
"We issue those for people who have threatened city staff or have come to City Hall and done things," Arreguin said. "Occupying as a form of political expression doesn't give you the right to beat someone up or do drugs and have dangerous weapons."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.