BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Protesters clashed with police in Berkeley Tuesday night over the city’s participation in the controversial “Urban Shield” program.
The violent confrontation broke out during a City Council vote in Berkeley. Wednesday morning, police were defending tactics that left some protesters bloodied and hurt.
73-year-old protester Lew Williams told KPIX 5 he left the Berkeley City Council meeting bleeding from his head.
He says police got rough. Video from the confrontation shows people on both sides can see pushing and shoving.
“My glasses got knocked off, so I reached down to get them. And as I was reaching down, one of them popped me in the head with his baton,” said Williams.
Hundreds gathered at the meeting to protest the Berkeley Police Department’s participation in the Urban Shield program.
The council voted to continue the SWAT team training. Supporters say the program is focused on emergency preparedness, but the hundreds who demonstrated against the training argue it promotes police militarization.
“They were holding banners peacefully. The police just treated us like we were enemy combatants,” said Williams wife Ellen Brotsky. “And this is exactly why we want police to withdraw for the Urban Shield.”
Brotsky said her husband is OK, but that they will be filing a complaint of excessive force.
“They were hitting other people with batons. Many people were hit with batons!” said Brotsky.
Berkeley police defended their actions.
“We were trying to effect an arrest and, when you have a crowd that was trying to obstruct our ability to make an arrest, we can use the minimum amount of force to effect the arrest,” said Berkeley Police Sgt. Andrew Frankel. “In this case, that was moving the crowd out of the street.”
Police arrested two individuals for disrupting the city council meeting.
Berkeley police said any allegation of excessive force would typically be investigated by internal affairs.