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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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News + PoliticsThe 54-year battle for People's Park continues

The 54-year battle for People’s Park continues

The cops are back. Barricades are up. The unhoused are evicted. Cars are towed. UC doesn't care.


Hundreds of armed people lined up in formation. Pacing back and forth, stomping on flower beds, wood chips, recently cut down mama tree stumps, basketball courts and vegetable gardens, throwing away tents and sleeping bags and belongings, cocking and re-cocking their weapons, adjusting their batons and tasers, looks of robotic ferocity flashing under their vinyl and acrylic face shields.  

….Houseless peoples, artists, students, elders, gardeners, flower planters, ecologists, humbly stood in front of armed police . They marched, screamed and begged them not to destroy the trees, step on the flowers, throw away the tents, fire their weapons , violently tackle us to the ground and arrest us.


Hundreds of armed agents of the state lined up in formation. On tops of buildings, in the street, in the park, stomping, marching, shooting, swinging batons, lead and rubber bullets, tear gas, flash grenades, wearing face shields, riot gear. Hundreds of humans, students, elders, artists, gardeners, florists, scientists, anti-war organizers, soil cleaners, aborists, land protectors scream, march, demand to leave a small part of Mama Earth alone for public use.


To stand on Dwight near Telegraph gazing up at the tiny part of Mama Earth in January 2024  was to suddenly be thrust into treacherous war zone anywhere on occupied Mama Earth and thrust  out of the comfy pseudo warmth of “college town” make believe (bookstores, record stores, cafes’ tattoo parlors and weed dispensaries). 

Cops protecting the shipping containers

In the middle of a cordoned off “public” street and far into the unseeable horizon, there were giant stacked shipping containers countless SUV’s from multiple police agencies, hundreds of officers milling about staring down anyone who watched them.

This scenario was almost identical on Haste from Telegraph, again barricaded off with metal gates, shipping containers police cars and cops, hundreds of them, standing around, looking menacingly in anyone’s direction and/or not even looking at all. 

In the bizarre scene’s backdrop is the mural of the 1969 battle between police and the people painted beautifully and frighteningly by the revolutionary lawyer and advocate for houseless folks like me, Osha Neumann, who broke this houseless povertyskola out of jail for the crime of living outside when I was a houseless child and young adult in Berkeley and Oakland.

The mural depicting previous struggles

“They came at us with everything they had, guns, tear gas, throwing our belongings in the trash. Throwing us in the trash. They took tents, our medicine, the kitchen we all built to serve free healthy food to houseless community like me and destroyed the garden and so much else and told us we had three minutes or less to leave,” said Rob, a long-time houseless RoofLessRadio reporter for PNN-KEXU.

Violent History repeating itself. 

There is has been an over 50 years long struggle, which has included multiple forms of building, planting, growing, living, art-making, performance, music, and the creation of a thriving community of peoples of all nations, generations, classes and cultures.

A community that doesn’t believe in the krapitalist lie of private property. Who just like us at Homefulness, knows that Mama Earth is not now, nor never has been, for sale, that no matter what the devil-opers and land occupiers say. People who are willing to peacefully fight for their small part of Mama Earth and all the beautiful Mama Trees they planted over the decades. 

Berkeley closed several streets and towed away cars without notice, but said residents can get them back.

“They cut down over 40 shade and life-giving trees,” said Aidan Hill, co-leader at People’s Park resistance, in an interview last year in January when UC Berkeley began another one of its most recent assaults. 

“The rest of them are all gone,” Rob said about the beautiful shade trees that the People’s Park protectors were able to save from the deadly bulldozers last year in the same month when they launched this “affordable” housing lie. While he spoke he motioned upward from his tent in the direction of the sky. “Their relentless bulldozers took the rest of the trees, now we mourn,” he shook his head and became quiet.

Excerpts From a disturbing letter from the UC Berkeley Chancellor to staff and students:

Early this morning we began work to cordon off the People’s Park construction site. Over the next 3-4 days, surrounding streets will be closed to traffic while crews install a secure perimeter consisting of double-stacked shipping containers.

The Project plans include new student housing with more than 1,100 beds and permanent supportive housing for very low income, and formerly unhoused people….

Our concern about, and commitment to the well-being of our unhoused neighbors are long-standing.

It’s hard to see anything now in the park,  because the shadowy supervillain, UC Berkeley chancellor, Carol Christ decided to surround the park with not only all of the publicly funded cops, working overtime 24 /7 on both streets at a cost of millions, but also stacked the space with huge shipping containers, which is ironic for us at Homefulness as we are desperately trying to raise the money to buy shipping containers so we can build rent-free forever homes at Homefulness 2 and 3 and 4 and beyond for houseless families, youth and elders, and we can barely afford to buy two of them.

The chancellor wastes them to use to fence and blockade people, mostly houseless people, from a safe sleeping space with a free kitchen and loving community, so she can build so-called “affordable housing” for a small number of people. But instead she uses the language of affordable to quiet any concerns from the un-knowing public who are witnessing this next bizarre chapter in the 54 years war of People’s Park.

Among other mis-truths in the chancellors letter she states that UC Berkeley’s concern and commitment is to the well-being of unhoused “neighbors.” If that was even remotely true then why did they come in the middle of the night with guns and tasers and tear gas removing anything or anyone who dared to be sleeping, living or existing in Peoples Park, most of whom were longtime houseless residents of the park like Rob and so many others?  

Every night the people gather, march, mourn, pray and/or march. We will not be intimidated and we will not give up. Taking over a street ourselves, sitting, standing, rolling, music making and ceremony creating on Telegraph avenue near the blockade. To support us, follow @PeoplesParkBerkeley on IG or Text SAVETHEPARK (all caps) to 41372 to be on the alert for the next attack.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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