Police investigating animal rights threats used heavy-handed tactics against a lefty collective
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Previously sealed documents related to the Aug. 27 police raid at the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley now reveal what the UC Berkeley Police Department was after, even if questions remain about its tactics.
The Statement of Probable Cause refers to e-mail threats against UC Berkeley researchers made by animal rights activists, sent from Long Haul's IP address. Long Haul along with its tenants Slingshot, a quarterly newspaper supporting radical causes, East Bay Prisoner Support, and Berkeley Liberation Radio had several of its computers seized by an assortment of gun-wielding campus cops, Alameda County sheriff deputies, and federal agents who broke into the nonprofit locale, which has been providing office and meeting space for political and social justice groups since 1994.
During the raid, according to Kathryn Miller, one of the first Long Haul collective members to arrive on the scene, authorities wouldn't show anyone the warrant until they finished breaking open cabinets and nabbing CDs and hard drives in pursuit of evidence. Miller says she even offered to unlock cabinets for them provided they show her the warrant, but the cops still refused.
That warrant explained little about the reasons for the intrusion, other than to refer to the Statement of Probable Cause affidavit filed with the Superior Court and to grant permission to confiscate property that could show a felony had been committed. Immediately after the raid, Robert Bennett, a staff member of Slingshot, expressed his suspicion that the raid was a form of "collective punishment" against left-wing groups, especially considering his publication's support of the tree-sitters who have delayed a UC Berkeley construction project.
Carlos Villareal, who is part of a team from the National Lawyers Guild that will be representing the besieged nonprofit pro bono, told the Guardian that Long Haul and its tenants have grounds to contest the search as unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.
"I'm pretty confident that we have a good argument that the search was overbroad and the tactics were heavy-handed. Searches need to be limited in both their scope and how they're done," he said.
Villareal didn't even see the affidavit until Heather Ishimaru, an ABC Channel 7 news reporter, brought it to Long Haul seeking comment. Ishimaru obtained the document by accident from the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on Aug. 8 when a clerk in training provided it to her even though it was under protective seal. If not for that lapse in procedure, Long Haul's lawyers would have to petition a court to see the incriminating document.
The affidavit, written by Detective Bill Kasiske, details some alarming e-mails sent via free Internet e-mail accounts to a researcher at the university, like one demanding, "STOP TORTURING ANIMALS OR THINGS GET UGLY" or another that correctly stated the researcher's home address and said, "im a crazy fuck and im watching YOU."
Kasiske concludes, "A search of the Long Haul's premises could reveal logs or sign-in sheets indicating which patrons used the computers on particular dates." But he doesn't draw a distinction between computers open to the public and those strictly for the use of tenant organizations.
Even if the search is limited to the public-access computers, not much information can be gleaned from them. Much like at the local public library, anyone from the Unabomber and Osama bin Laden to an FBI agent can walk in and use the computers without logging on or leaving any trace of their identity.
It's unclear why Kasiske didn't research Long Haul's practices regarding patron use prior to filing the affidavit, and no one from UCBPD would respond to our calls for comment. Villareal, the legal spokesperson on the case, noted that, "there are less disruptive methods of law enforcement.... We don't think they would do something similar to a business, Internet café, or library."