Probation Reinstated after Activist Violated Stay Away Order from Jewish Temple

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By Savannah Dewberry

OAKLAND, CA – “This is going to the media,” declared defendant Zachary RunningWolf Brown in Davidson Courthouse in Alameda County Thursday during his probation hearing.

Brown, a Bay Area activist, former Berkeley mayoral candidate, and native elder of the Ohlone tribe, served six months in Santa Rita Jail for felony vandalism and anti-Semitic hate crimes he was convicted of back in March 2021.

Brown was released on probation under the rule that he was not to go within 100 yards of Temple Sinai, the synagogue he defaced in October of 2020.

Thursday’s hearing was to decide if he had violated probation when he was photographed within 15 to 20 feet away of Temple Sinai, on April 23.

“You can look at the various photographs. There is no fist raised, or anger, or shouting, or spitting,” said Brown, self-representing again in Alameda Superior County Court.

Brown claimed being arrested a second time, and being stripped of his probation, was “traumatizing” and that he now “feared” Temple Sinai.

“There is no evidence showing me stopping and looking at the temple,” said Brown. “I wish you had the other photos that show me briskly walking up the street, I am not paying the temple any mind.”

Deputy District Attorney Erin Kingsbury disagreed, arguing that Brown knew different walking routes that didn’t go near the temple, and that members of the synagogue were afraid of him.

“I spoke to several members, their largest concern is that Mr. RunningWolf stays away from the property,” said Kingsbury. “He frightens the people who go there, and his mere presence makes them extremely uncomfortable and scared for their safety.”

DDA Kingsbury asked for another year in custody, which Brown did not take well.

“This ludicrous idea that the temple is somehow scared of me… I’m traumatized by this,” said Brown. “The surveillance of me is so immense that simply walking by the temple at two o’clock in the afternoon… I paid three months of my life on this stay away order.”

Brown proved to be a handful for Judge Delia Trevino in court, having to be told repeatedly to keep his mask on and more than once being told to refocus after going on rants about his previous March conviction.

“It’s crazy to think I’m anti-Semitic in a city that is one-third Jewish,” said Brown. “My one time violation, which I admit to, was based on the Catholic annihilation of the Ohlone people.”

That ‘one time violation’ was in reference to his spray painting swastikas on a Jewish temple.

Brown apparently also had people send in emails in support of him to the court, and asked why those documents were not available during the hearing, which puzzled Judge Trevino.

“The court doesn’t just take any email sent to the court and include them in the court record, that’s not how it works,” she said.

Judge Trevino said she felt “reassured” that Brown had no “sinister” intentions, but that he did violate his probation order willfully.

Judge Trevino declined the suggested sentence of one year in custody from DA Kingsbury, electing instead to reinstate Brown’s probation, and extend it to July 2023. Brown’s stay away order from Temple Sinai was also increased from 100 yards to 300 yards.

After Brown protested the distance increase, Judge Trevino held firm: “Whether you believe it was innocent or not, the order remains and it’s best for you to steer clear of any misinterpretation.”

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About The Author

Savannah Dewberry is a third-year student at the University of San Francisco studying media and journalism.

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