Campus police face criticism to response to Milo Yiannopoulos

Originally published on February 7, 2017 for The Daily Californian

UCPD is in the process of compiling footage from last week’s fiery Milo Yiannopoulos protest to identify suspects for vandalism, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, inciting a riot and failure to disperse, according to UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich.

Reich said in a statement that 150 “black bloc” anarchists marched onto campus, which UCPD saw as a threat to public safety, prompting it to declare the protest an unlawful assembly. To prevent the escalation of violence, UCPD officers did not engage with the anarchists, according to Reich — instead, they shot “less-lethal munitions,” such as pepper spray projectiles, to distinguish the agitators from the rest of the crowd.

“In a crowd control situation, we prioritize the protection of life higher than the protection of property,” Reich said in her statement. “We understand that if we were to go out and engage the militant-style anarchists that it would embolden the protesters and escalate the level of violence possibly putting our students in harm’s way.”

According to Reich, UCPD incident commander Lt. Marc DeCoulode was in charge of making both strategic and tactical decisions during the protest.

When the protest escalated, UCPD announced multiple dispersal orders and activated a countywide mutual aid, calling for additional officers to help clear the crowd, according to Reich. UCPD rescued multiple people who were injured, in addition to arresting one individual for failing to disperse.

John Bakhit is an attorney for the law firm representing the Federated University Police Officers Association, which represents all of the police officers at the 10 UC campuses. Bakhit said the campus’s police officers were primarily concerned that they could not help citizens who were being attacked. Additionally, he said the officers felt stuck inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, surrounded by the violence outside.

Campus junior Ilsa Carrillo participated in the protest Wednesday night and said that while she understands the need to maintain peace, she disagreed with UCPD’s methods — specifically, the use of munitions.

But Naweed Tahmas, campus junior and member of Berkeley College Republicans, said he believed that UCPD did not take enough action during the protest.

“I was so concerned that these people would storm the building, and (UCPD officers) were just sitting there,” Tahmas said. “These guys were not even attempting to disperse the crowd at all.”

Tahmas was in the Student Union with Yiannopoulos when M-80 firecrackers were launched at the building. He said he felt the ground shaking, while UCPD officers remained inside the building.

Even though Bakhit wasn’t at the protest, he said he hopes that officers will engage more next time to protect citizens.

“For future and in general, I want you to consider a world where there are anarchists, and the police officers say they’re not going to engage,” Bakhit said. “That would be a scary world that we would be living in if that was the standard response to anarchy.”

Tahmas said UCPD did not accompany BCR members when they left the building, so he and his colleagues were followed by some people in the crowd. He added he didn’t think the officers did their job.

Yiannopoulos announced Saturday that he intends to return to campus. According to Tahmas, BCR will be communicating with the administration and UCPD about security measures for the event.

“We’re definitely going to hold the administration and UCPD’s feet to the fire to make sure the event can go safely as planned next time,” Tahmas said. “It’s disgraceful what happened that night.”

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