Adapted from an article by Defend People’s Park
University of California Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ issued a statement “New Partnerships for a New People’s Park,” March 9 which detailed plans to address the “essential needs of those in the park” — by which she meant houseless people who have camped in the park over the last few years. The statement is part of the public relations campaign to promote destruction of the Park to build a gigantic dorm. Full of dramatic language but lacking details, the plan claims that UC is partnering with the city of Berkeley and local nonprofit organizations to provide food, services, and housing “navigators” for the unhoused with an 18-month lease for the 42 room Rodeway Inn and development of a new daytime drop-in center at a nearby Presbyterian church.
Institutions like UC are extending their tentacles to seize land without caring about the repercussions of gentrifying and displacing communities. Despite claims from UC administrators that the plan was developed through conversations with the community at People’s Park, residents there understand the reality of the UC’s proposal and almost unanimously reject it. Rosey, an artist who has used the park for years, put it bluntly: “This whole university’s full of shit. I think they’re conning these people.” Eighteen months isn’t long enough for someone to get their life together and get housing, he says.
Nick, another park resident who currently lives in and supports the People’s Park Kitchen, agreed that leasing the Rodeway is only temporary relief from a cycle of displacement. Like many other park residents, he knows it can take years or even decades for unhoused people to escape the “pathway to housing” and get a permanent place to live.
Nick says that current Rodeway residents have no idea that they’ll have to leave the Rodeway and most of them will not be relocated to permanent housing, meaning that UC Berkeley is attempting to offset their displacement of unhoused people by displacing other unhoused people.
Park residents expressed frustration and grief at the prospect of being displaced from the park. Denying the UC’s portrayal of the park as being dilapidated and obsolete, one resident, Maurice, says, “The park does still have life in it. Inside of it, outside of it, all around.” Maurice described the Park as a place where people can gather, relax, and develop projects to support the community. Jerome also emphasized the incredible power of the community to take care of and manage itself and echoed the sentiment of many other park residents.
It is with love for life and nature, that community activists, students, and our houseless neighbors, come together to defend the land and fight off the greed of capitalist institutions like the UC. Defend People’s Park, a collective of students and community members who are occupying the land, has worked to build networks of mutual aid within the park and community. Some of this work includes distributing clothes, tents, and other necessities, feeding residents savory and seasoned food, and providing harm reduction. These collective efforts to save the park have gotten electricity and water running for residents to use, and soon a shower will be completed. Like many encampments around the country, People’s Park is a welcoming space for healing, defense, and mutual aid. There is space to grow through gardening, nourishment, political education, and fun! Thus, now is the most urgent time to take direct action in our communities to defend People’s Park and encampments all over, from the UC’s colonial entitlement and hunger for profit. Share knowledge, share resources, and let’s fight for a rematriation of the land to indigenous stewardship, putting a halt to UC landlordship in Berkeley and everywhere. Come to our 53rd Annual Anniversary this April 23rd at People’s Park! Text “SAVETHEPARK” to 74121 and get notifications on the park. Stay updated by following the Instagram @peoplesparkberkeley Support by donating to the Venmo @pparkberk