There was a big protest in Berkeley on Thursday, and in other news, the sun rose in the East and set in the West.
But the delicious symmetry of this particular protest should not go without mention. The Berkeley protest occurred in the famous People’s Park — a symbol of 1960s chaos and rebellion. It was in 1969 that the city and state wanted to build a sports stadium in a residential area. When bulldozers moved in to raze the houses, Berkeley’s radicals objected. There followed months of protests and clashes with police culminating in what became known as “Bloody Thursday,” when one protester was killed and several others shot during a riot at the site.
The city set aside most of the site for a green space called “People’s Park.” It became a magnet for every far-left cause on the books — and some that weren’t.
This time, the issue isn’t a sports stadium, it’s desperately needed student housing. It didn’t really matter what the plans were for the park. The park was “theirs” — “them” being radical “community activists” who wanted the park for their own purposes.
— Supriya Yelimeli (@SupriyaYelimeli) August 3, 2022
The school wanted to begin developing the housing for students on Thursday. They ran into sometimes violent opposition.
The park was cleared overnight Tuesday and the fencing was put up the following day after an Alameda County Superior Court judge on Friday ruled that the University of California, Berkeley — the site’s owner — could move forward with its housing plan despite local groups suing to stop it.
By the early afternoon, parts of the fence had been cut down by protesters, prompting small celebrations of vindication inside the park. Some of the protesters remained on site after the university said it decided to stop construction for the day “due to the destruction of construction materials, unlawful protest activity, and violence on the part of some protesters.” Some of the protesters climbed onto the bulldozers that remained near a basketball court in the park.
The school, the city, and the police should realize that these protesters aren’t going anywhere. It’s a beautiful opportunity for some quality TV time and they aren’t going to give that up easily. And if the Berkeley cops lose their heads and try to defend themselves from the scruffy nerf-herders occupying the park illegally, all the better. After all, the “tree of liberty…” Yada, yada.
Brandon Mendoza, activist with Defend People’s Park who has been protesting at the location since early in the morning on Wednesday, said activists are prepared to occupy the park for as long as it takes to end UC Berkeley development.
“We’ve been here for 53 years, so, we’re continuing to be here,” Mendoza told Berkeleyside, standing atop the wooden structure that serves as the People’s Park Kitchen. “See you at the 54th anniversary. We don’t plan on leaving. We built this structure.”
Perhaps someone should whisper in the ear of the California Regents running Berkeley that maybe they should have thought about building more student housing before accepting thousands of students they had no place to put.