Berkeley, CA - Two radical groups have settled their lawsuits over an armed, over-broad police raid after the law enforcement agencies agreed to delete improperly seized computer data and pay $100,000 in damages and attorney's fees. Moreover, the University of California-Berkeley Police Department (UCBPD) acknowledged that at the time of the raid one of the groups qualified for federal protections designed to protect journalists, publishers, and other distributors of information from police searches, despite the police's persistent denial of that status throughout the lawsuit.
UCBPD and the FBI raided the building housing the Long Haul, an alternative library, Infoshop and community center in Berkeley, in August of 2008 as part of an investigation into e-mail threats sent to UC animal researchers that allegedly came from public-access computers in the building. Agents conducted an armed search of both public and private rooms – cutting or unscrewing locks that protected private offices – and removed every computer from the building. The raid team seized clearly unrelated computers from behind the locked doors of the Slingshot collective, a division of Long Haul that has published the Slingshot newspaper for 24 years as well as the Slingshot Organizer, and from the office of East Bay Prisoner Support (EBPS), which published materials about prisoners' struggles. However, the federal Privacy Protection Act specifically protects publishers from search and seizure except in narrow, unrelated circumstances. The Long Haul and EBPS collectively filed suit and were represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU of Northern California.
As part of today's settlement, the UCPD:
* Conceded that it has no information that either the Long Haul or EBPS was connected with the e-mail threats;
* Acknowledged that the Long Haul was at the time of the raid a publisher protected by the Privacy Protection Act, designed to prevent against such searches; and
* Agreed to expand the scope and coverage of improved training regarding the provisions of the Privacy Protection Act that were first imposed in the wake of the 2008 raid.
Both the UCPD and the FBI also agreed to:
* Destroy the data they seized as part of the raid; and
* Pay a total of $100,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees caused by the raid.
"We hope that in view of this lawsuit and this favorable settlement, law enforcement will think twice before they raid other radical spaces on flimsy pretenses," said Jesse Palmer, a long-time participant in Long Haul operations. "The raid was an abuse of power. The police refused to show Long Haul representatives a copy of the search warrant, prevented anyone from watching what they were taking during the raid, and preferred to cut locks rather than accept our offer to unlock doors. The raid was a fishing expedition and an attempt to intimidate and harass radicals undertaken by the FBI and UCPD, but as the settlement demonstrates, it was the police who broke the law. We've done nothing wrong."
"I have no faith that this agreement will change the attitudes or behaviors of the UC police or the FBI," said EBPS representative Patrick Lyons. "From kicking in our door and stealing our stuff, to the now-infamous UC Davis pepper spray incident, it is clear that the UC cops are at war with radicals, anarchists, and activists, and that will not change. I do, however, think that it is important that when they attack us, we fight back. I sincerely appreciate the hard work of EFF and the ACLU because in this situation our best weapon was our ability to make the UC police and FBI spend huge amounts of money defending their actions and concealing their agenda."
Long Haul and EBPS plan to donate $500 of their portion of the settlement to the Occupy Oakland Anti-Repression Committee to assist others targeted by the police for their political beliefs.
The Long Haul is an all-volunteer collective that operates a community space with free computer access, a historical archive, and a lending library of radical books to members of the public at its Infoshop in Berkeley, California. They have been at their current location since 1979 and have been a 501(c)(3) tax exempt educational organization since 1994. EBPS publishes a newsletter of prisoners' writings and distributes literature to prisoners.
For the full settlement agreement:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation