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The DBA’s Assault on Free Speech in Berkeley

The DBA launched a new poster destruction policy, despite being warned it was unconstitutional by the City Attorney. Tearing down fliers is a textbook example of a free speech violation. No one has the right to make content-based distinctions about what is allowed to be posted or said in legal, public places.

by Carol Denney

The Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) is still tearing down fliers downtown, constitutional rights be damned. Green-shirted Ricky and his team supervisor, Jerome Young, even called their supervisor on May 8, 2018, after I raised an objection to this practice.

I heard the voice of the DBA’s Ariana Woods over the walkie-talkie telling them to leave up any of the city’s fliers but tear down anybody else’s, which is precisely what they got scolded by the Berkeley City Attorney for doing in 2013.

It was as if someone wanted to illustrate a textbook example of a content-based, unconstitutional, free speech violation. I did some errands and then stopped by the City Manager’s office where a woman named Bree agreed to call the DBA and tell them to knock it off, and I thanked her. But I stopped by the DBA’s office a couple of hours later to make sure the message took. I’m glad I did.

I wanted to make sure they knew whose fliers they had torn down, in case they wanted to call and apologize to the summer jobs program, which had probably paid good money to connect with students or others looking for summer work. And they might have wanted to apologize to the DNA Lounge, which had clearly hired somebody to try to interest the East Bay crowd in a couple of different upcoming San Francisco shows.

Those posters ended up crumpled up in the arms of green-shirted Ricky, and when I showed the pile of destroyed fliers to Ariana Woods and John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, each of them had different theories of why it was okay to tear them down.

Ariana Woods, who has taken over the supervision of the green-shirted hospitality and cleaning crews after Lance Goree left the job, claimed that it was okay to take down everything except posters and fliers created by the city. John Caner, standing to my left, insisted that they should also leave up any community fliers — as long as they were from nonprofits.

All of which is equally unconstitutional, since no one has the right to make content-based distinctions about what is allowed to be posted or said in legal, public places.

How had John Caner and Ariana Woods resurrected a brand new poster and flier destruction policy despite the warning from the City Attorney back in 2013 that such destruction was unconstitutional?

John Caner promised that he’ll suspend the destruction of posters and fliers until he consults with the City. But don’t think this won’t happen again. They’re just waiting for me to stop caring. Because nobody else raised an eyebrow.

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A Sweet Deal from the Berkeley Police

Commentary by Carol Denney

Lululemon athletica paid more than $72,198.58 straight into the pockets of Berkeley police officers over the fall of 2017. And they’re still paying. It was up to $39,934.71 by March of this year for the (sometimes) two police officers twiddling their thumbs right outside their store at 1901 Fourth Street in Berkeley, where doubling the average price of leggings turned out to be a bright idea worth over two billion dollars in annual revenue last year alone.

Apple is in on the game, too. In addition to their own security guards, they spent over $33,908.75 through the 2016 holiday season on Fourth Street. They’ve had some spectacular thefts of laptops and high-end equipment, and although it might be hard to make the same case about the worth of lululemon’s sports bras and leggings, both companies measure their net worth in the billions.

But it goes without saying that they can afford their own security without the sweet deal they’re getting from the Berkeley Police Department, the brain child of new Police Chief Andrew Greenwood and presumably Berkeley City Manager Dee Ridley-Williams, who have apparently no objection to bumping what used to be around $5,000 in holiday security costs under previous administrations up into the $100,000 range because, after all, it was Christmas.

It must be the sweetest beat in town — voluntary overtime hovering at around $100 per hour in short shifts or in eight-hour shifts watching the yoga crowd wander by.

And the city’s police equipment is free. No charge for the sparkling new police cars, the wear and tear on police uniforms and equipment. Apparently these city resources, according to department invoices, are free.

Which leaves a neighborhood nearby that lost three young black men to gunfire within the last ten years wondering — could we just have the cop cars? And maybe the uniforms? Okay, the police radios, too. The police, well, we’re not so sure they’re all that useful in our neighborhood without some accountability, but until they boot the Copley decision, could we just have the empty police cars sitting nearby?

Paying eight hours of overtime, billed at $100 per hour, day after day won’t really work for our city budget. But we already paid for the city’s equipment through our taxes so hey, if the police cars and other equipment are free, send us the sign-up sheet.

The public records act request which asked if this new policy reflected an assessment regarding community-wide priorities and needs came up with zero, so this 4th Street prioritization hits us right in the Black Lives Matter.

Downtown Berkeley Association ambassadors have continued to tear down fliers and posters even after being warned by the Berkeley City Attorney that such destruction is unconstitutional. Carol Denney photo


Politics Is Hard to Follow

by Carol Denney

I saw Jesse Arreguin sleeping in a doorway

It was the saddest sight I’d ever seen

I saw Nancy Skinner panhandling on the Avenue

And I can’t figure out what it really means

I saw Lori Droste drinking out of a brown paper bag

With Patrick Kennedy under the overpass

I saw Kriss Worthington standing in the day labor line

Down there near the 4th Street shopping district

and I said (chorus) Politics is hard to follow

Gotta keep your sense of humor

Politics is hard to follow

Try to keep your head above water


I saw the Downtown Berkeley Association’s John Caner

Throwing the I Ching on a blanket in Sproul Plaza

I saw Tom Bates hanging out around the freebox

And he was saying how he wanted his old job back

I saw Cheryl Davila last night on television

and she was winning the WWE smackdown

I saw Diane Feinstein at the critical mass bike parade

And she was wearing a “Fuck the Police” T-shirt

and I said (chorus) Politics is hard to follow

Gotta keep your sense of humor

Politics is hard to follow

Try to keep your head above water


I saw the Chief of Police Andy Greenwood

He was serving soup with the Food Not Bombers

I saw Linda Maio hanging out at the Bart Station

spray painting walls with cool graffiti

I saw Kate Harrison doing really sweet skateboard tricks

hanging out with the punks down on Gilman street

I saw Sophie Hahn down at the police property room

saying how she needed to get her tent back

and I said (chorus) Politics is hard to follow

Try not to let it drive you crazy

Politics is hard to follow

Try to keep your head above water

Berkeley shelter closes

The closure of the largest homeless shelter in Berkeley leaves many with nowhere to go

Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.