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There are those who call Berkeley's streets home. And then there is the Berkeley Downtown Association. Those on Berkeley's streets probably don't think much at all about the BDA per se  - they just want a safe place to keep their stuff and to sleep. The BDA, on the other hand, thinks about the homeless all the time. The BDA wants development. It does not want the homeless in downtown Berkeley, and while it will go to great lengths to sound compassionate and reasonable about their plight, it has gone to even greater lengths to eject the homeless from Berkeley's downtown.

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Two years ago the BDA sponsored and financed a sit-and-lie ballot initiative to criminalize homelessness. It narrowly failed.

Around that time the BDA also created its own army of "hospitality ambassadors" who patrol downtown Berkeley cleaning up trash (good), assisting tourists (good) and harassing the homeless (bad). They had been restrained in how much harassment they could get away with without raising the hackles of Berkeley's civil libertarians until... the number of homeless began to increase. And increase some more. And "Something had to be done." Then...

Just weeks ago the BDA exerted its political muscle and convinced six of the nine members of Berkeley's City Council (they didn't need much convincing) to put into motion the process for passage of criminalizing ordinances that would push the homeless away and effectively into Alameda County's jails - to Declare War on the Homeless (Part I).

Although nothing has yet been enacted, in beginning the process the BDA and the City Council sent a loud and clear message to the Berkeley police, BDA's ambassadors, and the online trolls who have no other purpose in life but to write nasty and subtly threatening comments about the homeless: it was open season on people in the streets.

And so this came to pass:

Berkeley 'Hospitality Ambassador' Punches Homeless Man in Face, Continues the Beating. Homeless Man Arrested.

We watch as one of BDA's ambassadors and a man face off, just inches apart and screaming at each other (obvious no-nos to begin with on the part of the so-called ambassador). Then the BDA employee delivers a hard right to the man's jaw, and commences pummelling him. Mayhem ensues.

All this would have been bad enough, if not for what happened afterwards. The ambassadors reported the incident to their supervisors but blatently lied about what happened.

"((The)) report did not represent the extent and severity of the altercation, describing the event as an act of self-defense by the ambassador"
Why not lie, after all, for who would believe homeless people over them? (Not unlike a number of instances of police reports describing beatings for which video was later revealed)

Hours after the confrontation, on Friday evening, March 20th, the police came and arrested the homeless duo, taking them off to jail for the weekend. On Monday, they were arraigned and for whatever reasons copped to various misdemeanors in a plea deal.

... both already had entered no contest pleas Monday for misdemeanor battery, and were sentenced to two years of probation. According to the district attorney's office, they received credit for time served, will have to pay into a restitution fund, and will be subject to law enforcement searches and prohibited from possessing weapons. They also were ordered to stay away from the downtown Berkeley CVS.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone the above video had been recorded, and it was posted sometime on Sunday. Not 'til Thursday, however, did it get any attention when a local newspaper, Berkelyside, wrote up the story and embedded the video on their website.

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As you might imagine, then the shit hit the fan. The BDA ambassador who threw the first punch was fired and the other one suspended. The story got picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle and The UK's Guardian in Friday's editions. The youtube video has been viewed almost 35,000 times (as this is being published). BDA officials profusely apologized (mostly for being caught on video, we assume). Of course it was too late - the two victims were now injected (or re-injected) into the criminal injustice system.

The City Councilor who sponsored the new legislation stated during the debate on it (to guffaws) that she did not wish to criminalize the homeless. And yet even before the proposals are implemented we have prima facie evidence that, unlike Dorothy, her wishes are not coming true (or maybe they are).

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Let's be clear: by the very act of proposing such legislation, let alone enacting it, something similar to what happened here was bound to happen, if not sooner, then later.  And it may in fact have already happened more than once - just not caught on video.

We've soon enough seen the result of effective carte blanche given to the DBA and the Berkeley Police to "deal" with the homeless and "enforce our laws." Do we need to wait until someone is much more seriously injured, or even killed, before realizing and effecting what study after study has shown - criminalizing the homeless is not the answer.



These pictures were first published on the First They Came for the Homeless Facebook, credited to 'Menefee.'  

FTCftH also posted the following statement:

The war on the poor is happening now in Berkeley. The Downtown Business Association represents the money. The people who don't have any don't count. Get the homeless away from the businesses. Make it so they can't be on the sidewalk. This is the plan. Unfortunately for them, we know it's our sidewalk too. And we aren't giving up our rights because of a few greedy people.
Statement from an East Bay Community Law Center legal activist:
Osha Neumann, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center, said, "Multiple times in the past couple months, private citizens have recorded Berkeley Police arresting homeless people with disabilities in ways that resulted in injuries. This incident differs only in that the shirt is yellow rather than blue.

Just last week, the DBA brought to Berkeley's City Council a slate of six new anti-homeless laws that criminalize everyday activities. This isn't a coincidence. When the DBA pushes for criminalization, police and ambassadors feel pressured to use force to push homeless citizens out of public spaces. We don't want to see just the one guy who got caught fired: We want the DBA to end its campaign of criminalization and brutality against homeless people. If they want to address homelessness, then they need to be good faith members of the community, and participate in public processes like the Homeless Taskforce."



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For at least two and half years The City of Berkeley and its residents have been fighting the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office at 2000 Allston Way. They even went so far as to rezone land in the Historic District the Post Office is a part of to preclude commercial use of the properties within it. (This would theoretically make it less attractive for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to sell the property.)  The saga of this fight, the ensuing Occupation of the downtown Post Office, and the national fight against the privatization of Postal Services has been documented in numerous diaries here at Daily Kos by yours truly. (references herein and at the bottom).

In early November, 2014, the City of Berkeley and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed suits in tandem to stop the sale of the downtown Post Office, immediately after USPS announced that they had a buyer under contract for the property. The suit claims that USPS has failed to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA), bypassing proper procedures (such as an environmental review and proper protection mechanisms for New Deal artwork inside the building) in its haste to sell.

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Several weeks later the buyer backed out of the sale, and, to make a long story short, the Post Office then filed a "Motion to Dismiss" on, among other grounds, the claim that since the Allston Way Post Office was no longer under contract to be sold, there was no case. Berkeley countered with the assertion that the Post Office still intended to sell the building, as evidenced by its April 19th, 2013 "Final Determination" to relocate services out of the building and ultimately sell it, the USPS's July 18th, 2014 decision on appeal to uphold its April 19th decision, and the fact that the property was still listed for sale on the USPS's website of available-for-purchase buildings.

On March 26th, after submission of written arguments and rebuttals, Judge William Alsup of the United States District Court, Northern California heard oral arguments on the Motion to Dismiss.

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Another day, another young black man riddled with police bullets. Seven officers shot
at a Nicolas Thomas as he was fleeing in his car. Allegedly running from a warrant for parking tickets. The Officers apparently shot from the side and into the vehicle as determined by the side window's glass being shattered - and not the windshield; evidence that, despite police claims of fear for their lives, that they were not in the immediate path of the vehicle.

One witness says the car was not even moving when the shots rang out.

It happened across the driveway from a busy Starbucks where witnesses inside took cover as it all unfolded.

"They were standing behind the car, opening fire. He wasn't driving towards them," Goodyear customer Brittany Eustache said.

Eustache told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman what happened. She said she watched from inside the store, just feet away.

"The car was not moving when they begin to shoot at him. The car had been stopped he hit curb he could go any further," she said.

"So at no point was he making any aggressive moves?" Stockman asked her.

"None, none at all. They immediately opened fire on them," Eustache said.

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Will the dominos continue to fall as happened recently in Ferguson? Or will Nicholas Roti, the chief of the bureau of organized crime, operating out of the now-infamous Homan Square police warehouse, be the fall guy?

According to the Guardian, which weeks ago reported how the Homan Square facility was used by Chicago police to "disappear" people for many hours, subject them to illegal questioning, and leave them chained and handcuffed for hours in isolation

A senior Chicago police commander in charge of a major unit operating out of the controversial Homan Square police warehouse has resigned...

Nicholas Roti, the chief of the bureau of organized crime, resigned from the Chicago police department last week, Chicago police public affairs officer Mike Sullivan told the Guardian...

Roti took charge of the organized crime division in 2010... the organized crime bureau was cited by the Chicago police "fact sheet" released on 1 March, attempting to refute the Guardian's reporting about a complex where 11 people thus far have told the Guardian they were effectively disappeared.

"Sensitive units housed at the [Homan Square] facility include the Bureau of Organized Crime (including the narcotics unit)," the fact sheet reads.

(I can't help but remark how 'the Bureau of Organize Crime' is a fitting description of many police departments, but especially Chicago's)

Some of the men "disappeared" at Homan Square are in the process of filing a civil rights lawsuit.

The civil rights lawsuit, expected to be filed on Thursday evening in the US district court for the northern district of Illinois, comes on behalf of two Homan Square victims the Guardian wrote about on 4 March: John Vergara and Jose Garcia...

Vergara and Garcia told the Guardian that masked police police officers "kidnapped" them from a Humboldt Park deli; held them and three others in a Homan Square "cage" without booking or access to counsel for eight to nine hours...

"The plaintiffs would like the facility to be shut down," said attorney Blake Horwitz."

Amen to that.

The resignation and the lawsuit may not be the end of it, even.

The lawsuit comes a day after US congressman Danny Davis and Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin hand delivered a letter to US attorney general Eric Holder requesting a Justice Department investigation into Homan Square.
And with the behavior of Republicans in the Senate, Holder may still be around if and when the results of the investigation get published.

Tuesday night, March 17th, to a packed crowd, the Berkeley, Californa City Council voted 6-3 on a plan to banish the homeless from O'Berkeley declare war on the homeless.

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Homeless, advocates and supporters march before the City Council meeting.

Ignoring testimony from academics who had done research on homelessness and criminalization at UC Berkeley, ignoring references to studies that repeatedly showed that criminalizing the homeless did not work, ignoring pleas from those who serve the homeless that criminalizing homelessness would only make their jobs more difficult by denying services to those with warrants and/or arrest records, ignoring reference to Federal recommendations such as

"the Obama administration has cautioned cities against trying to cope with homeless populations by passing laws against 'act of living' crimes like sleeping or sitting... 'Criminalization policies further marginalize men and women who are experiencing homelessness, fuel inflammatory attitudes, and may even unduly restrict constitutionally protected liberties.'",
despite threats of lawsuits, ballot initiatives and the fact that Berkeley Measure S, a measure to criminalize the homeless in 2012, had been defeated, despite testimony from formerly homeless people stating that what they needed to get off the street was assistance, not fines and jail time, despite the fact that the use of police to enforce these laws will inevitably lead to selective enforcement and tragedy (such as the murder of Anthony Hill in Georgia, a mentally disturbed, naked and unarmed man, by an officer), despite the callousness demonstrated by the measure, which would make it a crime to "deploy a blanket" and prevent the homeless from cooking, and despite questionable (at best) parliamentary procedure, the resolution, proposed by Council member Linda Maio, was enacted.
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There's a number of reporter tweets, some with caveats, saying the police have the Ferguson shooter in custody, that just got published.  

Update: There is confirmation that someone was arrested in conjunction with the shooting (who may or may not be the shooter).  There will be a press conference at 1:30 PM (11:30 AM PT).

Update: The livestreams for the press conference:

NBC livestream.

Local news livestream.

Main announcement

Was the shooter "a protester" ?

McCullough vaguely claimed he had been, or that the shooter claimed to have been. But now...

Tweets as they came across:

And we have this from Fox2 News in St. Louis:

FERGUSON, MO (KTVI)- St. Louis County Police have confirmed to  FOX 2 that the suspected shooter of two police officers early Thursday morning outside of the Ferguson police department is in custody.
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Official recall papers were filed today for Mayor James Knowles of Ferguson. Those filing now have 60 days to get enough signatures to force the recall.  They left little to the imagination in their statement announcing the effort:

We cannot describe how disgusted we are with you.

Perhaps Knowles is prescient.  Just hours ago NBC reported that Knowles said "There's ways for them to remove me if they so choose."

The mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, said Friday that he has no plans to join the cascade of top local officials stepping down in the aftermath of a scathing federal report alleging racially biased policing.

In an interview with Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Mayor James Knowles III said that the resignations or firings of six city officials implicated in the scandal have given the troubled city the clean slate it needs to begin the reforming itself. Some in the community have demanded a recall election.

"There's ways for them to remove me if they so choose. But right now this community needs leadership," Knowles said. "This community needs someone who is going to stay around and work toward bringing us together, moving us forward. And I've committed to doing that. And so has the rest of the city council."


Knowles fate?

35%37 votes
38%40 votes
12%13 votes
2%3 votes
9%10 votes

| 103 votes | Vote | Results


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Yes, he was convicted of first degree murder some 20 years ago. But no, both on general principles and in this specific circumstance, he shouldn't be executed.  As Mother Jones reports

Cecil Clayton, 74, who had parts of his brain removed after an accident 40 years ago, is scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday. He was convicted of first-degree murder after killing a cop in 1996...

In 1972... a piece of wood... pierced his skull and entered his brain. Doctors eventually had to remove nearly one-fifth of his frontal lobe - the part of the brain that is crucial to decision making, mood, and impulse control. Clayton was completely transformed: His IQ dropped to 76, and he developed serious depression, hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, and thoughts of suicide...

Missouri law states that a person cannot be executed if, as a result of mental disease or defect, he or she is unable to "understand the nature and purpose of the punishment about to be imposed upon him." ...

What is the evidence that he cannot understand his impending execution?  It spans decades...
Clayton was officially diagnosed with chronic brain syndrome in 1983, which includes psychosis, paranoia, depression, schizophrenia, and decreased mental function...

In 2008, Dr. William Logan, commissioned by the defense to examine Clayton... argued - unsuccessfully- that Clayton was unfit for execution:

While Mr. Clayton knows the State plans to execute him for killing Deputy Castetter, he believes his legal situation is instead a test of his faith and that God will not allow the punishment to occur as God has chosen him for another mission. Hence, he has no concept of a need for clemency, or capacity to understand matters in extenuation, arguments for executive clemency or rational reasons why the sentence should not be carried out.
By 2012, Clayton's mental state further declined because of his advancing age... "His dementia has worsened secondary to aging and to his long term cardiovascular disease. His insight and judgment are further impaired..."

As recently as February of this year, Clayton's cellmate said that Clayton was unable to operate the telephone on his own and could not understand how to order from the prison canteen...

Nonetheless, on St. Patrick's Day...
On February 6, the state set an execution date of March 17 for Clayton.
I tweeted the other day that

To the not guilty we can add in the tally of those who commit homicides but should not have been convicted of 1st degree murder because they were incapable of premeditation (as it seems perhaps this person might not have been, despite the jury verdict).  Then, like Clayton, there are those who may have deliberately committed the crime but in the ten, twenty or thirty years it takes to carry out the execution sentence, no longer have the capacity to understand what is happening.

And let's not even discuss the costs of death row and our death penalty legal system.

At least 18 states do not have an enforceable death penalty statute and others, such as California, haven't executed anyone in a fairly long time.

153 countries have either abolished the death penalty or not used it in at least 10 years.

Let's not execute Mr. Clayton... or, into the future, anyone else.


The basics:

CNN Thursday morning

Those still there just after midnight were starting to leave when gunfire erupted "no less than 100 feet" away from the crowd of protesters, Kayla Reed said.

Two police officers standing guard outside the Ferguson, Missouri, police department were shot early Thursday morning, spurring a manhunt for those responsible.

One of the police officers shot in Ferguson overnight -- an officer from Webster Groves, Missouri -- was shot "at the high point" of his cheek, under his right eye, and the bullet is now lodged behind one of his ears, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Thursday morning.

The other officer struck, from St. Louis County, was shot in his shoulder and the bullet came out the middle of his back, according to Belmar.

The two police officers were standing next to each other in front of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department when they were hit around midnight, Belmar said.

Rolling Stone:
Authorities have yet to name a suspect, but they believe the shots came from a gunman perched on top of a hill about 220 yards across from the station. Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department said he believed "these shots were directed exactly at my police officers.

Amateur video of the shooting area at the time shots were fired:

Tweets as it happened Wednesday night..

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Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 05:43 PM PDT

Breaking: Ferguson City Manager Axed.

by jpmassar

Vote was 7-0. "The City Council will conduct a nationwide search for a new City Manager." Lulz.

From the New York Times

FERGUSON, Mo. — The city manager of Ferguson, Mo., who a Department of Justice report said was responsible for overseeing the city’s operations as it engaged in racially biased and unconstitutional policing practices, has resigned.

The announcement came during a City Council meeting here on Tuesday, about a week after the scathing Justice Department report.

The manager, John Shaw, 39, had held the post since 2007. As Ferguson’s chief executive, he is the city’s most powerful official.

Until the Justice Department report was released, Mr. Shaw had remained largely in the background, while the city’s police chief and mayor became the public faces of turmoil in Ferguson.

But the report highlighted Mr. Shaw as one of the officials responsible for much of the questionable conduct by the police and the courts, which he oversees.

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Not sure whether to be happy or depressed.

Prosecutors are dropping the case against a US woman who spent more than 30 years in prison for a 1976 murder...

The FBI say DNA found on a cigarette butt at the Reno crime scene suggests the real killer is a former Oregon prison inmate, Rodney Halbower...

Woods, now 64, was convicted in 1980 and again 5 yrs later. The convictions were based largely on the confession she made in 1979 at the psychiatric hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana...

Woods doesn't remember acknowledging the killing while hospitalised... "I'm told it was a product of wanting to get a private room," public defender Maizie Pusich said. "She was being told she wasn't sufficiently dangerous to qualify, and within a short period she was claiming she had killed a woman in Reno."

Maybe I have to be both.
"She is delighted," Pusich told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "She is having probably the best day of her life because she knows that this is all over."
So many are convicted on the basis of false, coerced confessions by police and DAs with no accountability. So many are essentially forced to plead guilty to something to get out of the hell of the justice system. So many are gunned down in the street by police, never getting a chance to be convicted or found innocent.  So many who do survive and make it into prison are mentally ill. So many - 80,000 - are caged in solitary confinement.

The Criminal Injustice System.  It is aptly named.

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A BNSF Railway train loaded with crude oil derailed and caught fire on Thursday afternoon in a rural area south of Galena, Illinois, according to local officials and the company...

Dark smoke was seen for miles around the crash site...

The train with 105 loaded cars - 103 of them carrying crude oil - derailed around 1:20 p.m...

Eight cars derailed, according to Galena City Administrator Mark Moran, six of which had tumbled onto their side...

About 40 to 50 oil trains come through the area each week, Jo Daviess County Emergency Manager Charles Pedersen said.

If planes crashed at the rate these trains are derailing their would be a major Federal investigation and planes under suspicion of faults would be grounded.  Yet these trains filled with essentially high-explosives continue to roll through the country, and worse through densely populated areas.

The latest plan for the Bay Area has these bomb trains being sent through the East Bay, from Martinez which is north and east of the East Bay, down through Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Fremont and San Jose - all major metropolitan areas.

A revised environmental report for a rail expansion project at a petroleum refinery on the Central California coast that could bring crude oil by trains through densely populated East Bay cities like Fremont has been published...

The Phillips 66 Company Rail Spur Extension Project envisions bringing unit trains with 80 tank cars plus locomotives and supporting cars to a new crude oil unloading facility in Santa Maria...

The approach from the south would be through the Los Angeles area and up the Pacific Coast. An approach from the north would go along the Amtrak Capitol Corridor from Martinez via Richmond, Berkeley and Emeryville to Oakland, and from there south along the Capitol Corridor or Coast Starlight route via Hayward, Fremont and Santa Clara to San Jose and on to Santa Maria.

Of course the towns all oppose it. The latest to register their dislike is San Leandro:
the ((San Leandro)) City Council unanimously approved, without discussion, a resolution asking the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to oppose the expansion of the Phillips 66 facility in San Luis Obispo County.
But there is nothing they can do, legally, to interfere with shipping by rail.

It's only a matter of time until the Lac-Megantic tragedy is repeated here in the US:

In 2013, 47 people were killed in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.
Oops indeed.
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