After brief reconsideration, City of Berkeley upholds police tear gas ban, following unrest at People’s Park

“I care about the homeless community. Like they don’t have the privilege of coming home and sleeping in a bed,” she said, noting that she didn’t trust the university to keep its promise to build supportive housing. for people in need. “You know, most of these people have mental issues and they don’t have medical care or support from friends or family, and we kick them out of the park. It’s their last resort, their Last hope.”

More than 100 opponents of the project gathered Wednesday night at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, before returning several blocks to the park, where some activists have encouraged protesters to stay there around the clock to ward off any attempts additional construction recovery.

Trunks of trees that construction crews felled early that morning, before being arrested by protesters, lay strewn around People’s Park on August 3, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

UC Berkeley’s unexpected decision to begin construction on Wednesday follows a ruling by an Alameda County Superior Court judge on Friday allowing the school to move forward with its housing plan, despite the community groups who took legal action to stop him.

Harvey Smith, with the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Groupsaid he was disappointed with the attempt to build the university in the early morning, but hardly surprised.

“UC was obviously very ready to do this and the judge opened the door and they walked right in,” he said. “We are fully prepared to appeal and seek another stay of demolition. And our lawyers are working on it right now.”

Demonstrators march down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley from Sproul Hall to People’s Park on August 3, 2022, to protest UC Berkeley’s attempt to begin building student housing in the park. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

But Doris Moskowitz, owner of legendary nearby Moe’s Books, said while she respects the park’s history, she ultimately supports the university’s plans. Many people have avoided the area in recent years, she said, due to genuine security concerns.

“They’ve come up with what looks like a good plan to create space for both green spaces, social housing and student accommodation,” she said. “So they try to meet the needs of the community – but you know everyone is sad when there are green spaces that disappear. So we have conflicting feelings.”

Shattered windows in a construction vehicle
A damaged construction loader lies at People’s Park in Berkeley after protesters smashed windows on August 3, 2022. (Jonathan Hale)

The protests date back to the spring of 1969, when community organizers banded together to turn a site the state and university seized under eminent domain and turned it into a gathering space they named People’s Park. After the then university erected a fence around the park, protesters sought to reclaim it, sparking bloody battles that led to police shooting and killing one man and injuring dozens more . This May 15, 1969 uprising, known as “Bloody Thursday”, sparked even more protests and then-Governor Ronald Reagan summoned the National Guard to occupy Berkeley.

“It certainly brings to mind the arrogance of the university and its unwillingness to take into account the concerns of the community,” said Dan Siegel, now a labor lawyer, who was a law school student in 1969. Siegel said was arrested on Bloody Thursday. after delivering a speech at a campus rally in which he implored the crowd to “get down there and take the park.”

an older woman speaks into a microphone in a park
Longtime activist Jane Stillwater, who has fought to preserve People’s Park for decades, addresses protesters gathered in the park on Wednesday evening. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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