UC Berkeley Pauses People’s Park Construction Amid ‘Unlawful Protest Activity,’ Alleged Violence!
UC Berkeley said Wednesday afternoon that it was pausing construction that started this morning of a student housing project at People’s Park due to “the destruction of construction materials, unlawful protest activity, and violence.”
Before sunrise, police in riot gear went to a square block of land near Telegraph Avenue to clear out a small camp of homeless people and put up fences around the area. As soon as the sun came up, a crew of workers showed up at the site and started bringing in construction equipment and cutting down trees.
“They are currently cutting down trees in the park with chainsaws,” said Ramon Mendoza, who is part of a movement to preserve the park. A video posted on Twitter at 9:36 a.m. showed the tree work underway.
At 9:23 a.m., KRON posted a video of protesters stopping construction trucks “so they couldn’t cut down any trees.”
As the day went on, more protesters showed up, tore down the fence, and filled the park.
UC Berkeley said several arrests were made, but couldn’t provide detailed information about numbers and charges as of 2 p.m.
The group Defend People’s Park said early this morning that several forklifts, large moving vehicles, and trucks with fencing were at the park before sunrise.
The university said in a statement that when work began this morning, two or three unhoused people were in the park who had been “previously offered shelter, repeatedly notified that the park was soon to be closed, and informed that overnight camping in the park is not permitted.”
“Last night, alternative shelter, transportation, and storage for belongings was offered again to every person when the park was closed, an offer that remains available for all who need and want it,” the university said.
Friday, a judge in Alameda County Superior Court said that UC Berkeley can start building a 16-story building that will house more than 1,100 students.
Student groups and activists stood on the sidelines to protest the closing of the park. They have been against the university’s plan for a long time and have asked that the National Register of Historic Places site be kept as a public green space.
Located in the center of the Bay Area’s high-priced and famously tight real estate market, UC Berkeley faces a student housing shortage; according to a 2017 survey, it “has the lowest percentage of beds for its student body of any campus in the UC System.” The survey also found that 10% of respondents self-identified as having experienced homelessness at some point while attending UC Berkeley.
In addition to housing for students, the People’s Park housing complex would have up to 125 apartments for homeless and low-income people, as well as open areas with landscaping.
“More than 60% of the 2.8-acre site will be preserved as open space and revitalized into a renewed park space that reinforces the site’s history,” the university said. The site will also feature “a memorialization of the park’s past and historical significance.”
A website for the project says that the university also wants to help people living in People’s Park find permanent housing by giving them temporary housing and services to help them move.