September 23, 2018
Jay Kim, Executive Director, NLGSF
firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-285-5067 Ext 104
BERKELEY- The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) calls on Berkeley City Council to approve an anti-doxing policy at its 9/25 City Council Meeting.
On August 5, 2018, the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) arrested 21 people at an alt-right rally that was scheduled as part of a week-long “commemoration” of the hateful acts that took place a year earlier in Charlottesville, NC. All 21 arrestees, however, were anti-racist counter-protesters who were arrested due to alleged violations of an emergency ordinance passed by Berkeley City Council and/or park regulation promulgated for the August 5th rally, that prohibited possession of many everyday items, including sticks, poles, scarves and bandanas.
Kate Brenner, a 70-year old grandmother, was among those who were arrested. “I was shocked that I was being arrested for having two small rocks attached as weights to my banner – my banner is part of my constitutionally protected right to free speech. Regardless of the State’s attempts to silence and intimidate me, I will continue to join with the community to say ‘no’ to hate.” Other pretexts for arrest included wearing an infinity scarf, driving or traveling in a sound truck meant to lead a peaceful march, and pulling a t-shirt over one’s face to avoid having their photograph taken by white nationalists. After arresting the individuals largely for infractions punishable by only a fine, BPD then needlessly transported the arrestees to Santa Rita Jail rather than releasing them with a citation.
Following their arrests, BPD released the arrestees’ names, home cities, inflammatory, misleading descriptions of the basis for their arrest, and booking photos on its Twitter account. This post was then promoted by Fox news and other outlets and used to foment attacks against those who speak out against racism and fascism. By doing so, BPD contributed to “doxing” – the practice of publishing personal information that can be used to harass and threaten people at their homes and places of work. Though the booking photos were later removed from the BPD’s Twitter account due to political pressure, the damage had already been done. Those whose personal information was released online by the BPD received threatening phone calls and emails. Their ability to secure employment was impacted. The District Attorney declined to press charges against any of the 21 arrestees, attributing their refusal to charge as being in the interests of justice in many cases.
Just last week, the results of a Public Records Act request revealed that BPD instituted its protocol to release booking photos and personal information of anti-racist/ anti-fascist arrestees to create a “counter narrative” against the impression that BPD is not responding adequately to the presence of these groups in Berkeley. “BPD’s protocol of releasing booking photos of arrestees and the potential negative consequences of being doxed by the alt-right is meant to deter Bay Area activists from exercising their First Amendment rights, which is critical to creating social change,” said NLGSF Executive Director Jay Kim.
City Council members did not appear to be aware of the policy created by BPD. The Public Records request was the only way the public was able to learn of BPD’s protocol of releasing booking photos and personal information of arrestees. Repeated demands for an explanation had been ignored. This type of independent action by BPD lacks transparency and accountability and undermines the democratic process. “Who is running Berkeley? Is it the people through their elected officials or is it the City Manager’s office and BPD?” asked Andrea Prichett, founder of CopWatch.
NLGSF urges Berkeley City Council to pass a robust anti-doxing policy at its meeting on September 25, 2018 in order to protect Bay Area residents. “It is imperative that Berkeley City Council take a stand against BPD’s lack of concern over protesters’ safety and the infringement of their constitutional rights. This is not the first time that Berkeley has enacted the emergency regulations banning items common to protest signs, used the policy allowing BPD to publish the photographs and cities or residence of anti-racist protestors, and engaged in the practice of transporting arrestees to Santa Rita despite alleging only infraction violations. Each time, BPD’s arrests and doxing have focused on antiracist protesters, not fascists advocating hate, and each time, not one of those whose identities BPD exposed has been convicted of any crime.” said EmilyRose Johns, an NLGSF member and civil rights attorney at the Law Offices of Siegel, Yee & Brunner.
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