Target: City Government Officials of Berkeley, California
Goal: Reject plans to acquire a military vehicle that would contradict the city’s longstanding tradition of peace
Berkeley, California is a city known for its commitment to peace, promotion of civil liberties and liberal social views. Now, the city is considering a plan that would allow local police to use militaristic armored cars and vehicles for counter-terrorism and crime efforts.
According to an article by the Inter Press Service, the University of California, Berkeley is using grant money from the Department of Homeland Security to buy the city a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. The truck, more often called the BearCat, will be used by the city of Berkeley, the University and the neighboring city of Albany.
There is ample opposition to the vehicle based on its potential to curb free speech through intimidation, and its offensive capacity that would turn it into a weapon. While police officials referred to the BearCat as a purely defensive vehicle meant to protect police officers from assault, Councilmember Max Anderson pointed out that the truck has gun ports and could easily be turned into an attack vehicle.
“While we might count [the vehicle] as being protective of officers, they also carry an offensive component that could be misused under certain circumstances,” warned Anderson.
An additional red flag is the secrecy with which the decision and purchase were made. The citizenry and councilmembers of Berkeley should have had a say in the matter, but because the vehicle was purchased through the University, the police department was not required by law to release the grant application.
“I feel a certain level of …betrayal,” said attorney Sharon Adams, who has been working with a community coalition and meeting with police about concerns. “During all this time, police never told us they were going for this armored tank.”
The necessity of this vehicle is also being called into question. The last time Berkeley police officers were killed by gunfire was in the 1970’s—and yet, they claim this vehicle is for defensive purposes. In a city known for its peaceful protests, where citizens lawfully exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and protest, it seems unnecessary, and quite frankly suspicious to use armored cars for police protection. With no attack-related police deaths in over 40 years, what exactly do the police want protection from? Sign below to express your concern to Berkeley city officials.
Dear Mayor Bates, Berkeley City Manager and Berkeley Police Department,
The decision to purchase and use an armored vehicle in the city of Berkeley, CA is disconcerting.
As the many who oppose this decision contend, the militaristic nature of this vehicle is completely at odds with the spirit and history of Berkeley. It would be a shame to go through with this hypocritical purchase.
More practically speaking, the necessity of the vehicle is rightfully under scrutiny. Police officials and those defending the purchase claim that the truck is strictly for defensive purposes. However, a police officer has not been killed by gunfire since the 1970’s, calling the timing of this purchase into question.
Please reconsider using this vehicle in Berkeley. The city is a beacon of peace and free speech for people around the world, and using this vehicle would do irreversible damage to the city’s reputation and credibility.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: TheRealMichaelMoore via Flickr