Editor’s note: This article was written as an impact statement for a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley, California, for the destruction of personal property during an arrest at one of the 15 raids (so far) on the “First they came for the homeless” four-month Poor Tour traveling tent community.
BERKELEY, CA. On the morning of November 4, 2016, at about 5 a.m. I was awakened by Berkeley police officers violently shaking my tent.
Barely awake, I tried to get them to wait a minute. I have breathing issues and I need to medicate to breathe. The police refused to listen and instead ordered me to perform tasks that would risk my life. They gave me no choice.
I entered into a breathing episode where I feel like I’m suffocating. Instead of listening, the police dragged me out of my tent and arrested me. They put me in a paddy wagon where I continued to struggle to breathe and I said so.
They took me to jail and refused to let me hit my inhaler. I had to wait 20 minutes for an EMT (emergency medical technician) to hand it to me. After I got out of jail, I discovered that all my personal possessions were missing, including what was on me when I was arrested. All my personal possessions were gone. I owned nothing. No ID. No food stamp card. No cash.
It took over two months for me to replace my food stamps and ID. I still have nothing. I can’t shave. I can’t clean my ears. I can’t clip my nails. My medicine is gone. The medicine had been effective for years and just over a month after it was taken, I was hospitalized. I have never needed a hospital before.
I was reduced to sleeping on a piece of cardboard under a light blanket for days. With no resources and no ability to get resources, over two months went by before I received any cash to buy a change of clothes. My shoes got thrown away, so the jail gave me unlaced shoes. I cannot buy laces yet. I won’t ever be able to replace some of those possessions. They had history. The technology had photos and videos that can never be replaced.
Loss of all personal possessions in a fire gets you all kinds of help. Losing them in a tent gets you arrested.
Since my arrest, the Poor Tour has continued. The Berkeley Police have raided the group of disabled protesters 15 times and stolen their possessions and medicines. These raids include dozens of cops, city workers, vehicles and city officials. All to move fewer than a dozen disabled people. All raids occur at 5 a.m. So far, the police have injured a city council candidate, a senior, the camp mom and, by stealing my medicine, they have ended up hospitalizing me. I am writing this from my respite care facility. I had to leave the occupation and my friends because of my health. But this is not over.