The council made its decision amid weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. But, calls for justice for Floyd and others increasingly have evolved into anti-police rhetoric, with protesters demanding the defunding or dismantling of departments.
Berkeley's mayor, Jesse Arreguín, voiced his support of the council's decisions on Twitter, writing that "tear gas is banned in warfare and should not be used on our streets or in protests."
Arreguín initially had proposed a temporary ban on tear gas, smoke canisters and pepper spray under state health restrictions. Councilmember Cheryl Davila then suggested banning tear gas altogether, according to the report.
During the deliberation, a council member asked Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood what “alternative tools” Berkeley police could use under the threat of violent protests. “Firearms. We can shoot people,” he replied.
Greenwood later walked back his remarks. “You know it doesn’t reflect my compassion for service,” he said, tearing up following several calls for his resignation. “I was asked ‘what are the tools you have,’ I responded as I did. I’m tired, as are my people.”
“I should have said we have nothing else,” Greenwood continued. “Policing itself is brutality,” one local accused.
The city should reduce the police budget by 50 percent and take other immediate steps to fix the problems, he said: “Strong communities make police obsolete.”
Davila then asked the city attorney to explain what it would take to disband BPD.
“We must do all that we can to abolish the police in the way we know they exist right now. We need to step up, be courageous,” Davila asserted. “Black lives really do matter.”