Cal halts construction at People’s Park due to ‘violence’

UC Berkeley said Wednesday afternoon it was suspending construction that began this morning of a student housing project in People’s Park due to “the destruction of building materials, illegal protest activity and violence”.

Police in riot gear descended on the square lot just off Telegraph Avenue before sunrise to clear a small homeless encampment and put up fencing around the area. A work crew showed up at the site as soon as the sun came up, bringing construction materials and cutting down trees.

A worker cuts down a tree at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A worker cuts down a tree at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

“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 showed tree work in progress.

KRON job a video at 9:23 a.m. showing protesters blocking construction trucks “to prevent them from clearing trees”.

As the day progressed, more protesters descended on the area, tearing down the fence and flooding the park.

Protesters attempt to pull down a fence at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Protesters attempt to pull down a fence at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

UC Berkeley said several arrests had been made, but could not provide detailed information on numbers and charges as of 2 p.m.


The band Defend People’s Park said early this morning that several forklifts, large moving vehicles and trucks with fences were at the park before sunrise.

“They are throwing away residents’ belongings,” the group wrote on Twitter.

The university said in a statement that when work began this morning, two or three homeless people were in the park who had “previously taken shelter, given repeated warnings that the park was soon to be closed and informed that overnight camping in the park was not permitted.”

“Alternative shelter, transportation and storage of belongings was again offered to everyone last night when the park was closed, an offer which remains available to all who need and want it,” said the university.

People prevent contractors and their equipment used to fell trees from leaving People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

People prevent contractors and their equipment used to fell trees from leaving People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that UC Berkeley can begin construction of a 16-storey building which will accommodate more than 1,100 students.

Activists and student groups stood aside to protest the closure of the park. They have long challenged the university’s plan and called for keeping the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a public green space.

Heavy machinery is seen pushing a redwood tree at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Heavy machinery is seen pushing a redwood tree at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

Located in the center of the expensive and reputedly tight Bay Area real estate market, UC Berkeley faces a shortage of student housing; 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 identified as having experienced homelessness at some point while studying at UC Berkeley.

In addition to student housing, the People’s Park housing complex would provide up to 125 apartments offering supportive housing with on-site services for homeless and low-income residents, as well as landscaped open spaces.

Protesters sit atop a structure at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Protesters sit atop a structure at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

“Over 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. said. The site will also feature “a commemoration of the park’s past and historic significance”.

The university’s plans also include providing transitional housing for people living in People’s Park, with services to support a transition to permanent housing, a website dedicated to the said project.

This is a developing story and details will be added as they emerge.

A lone protester sits in the last standing redwood tree at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

A lone protester sits in the last standing redwood tree at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

Police guard an entrance previously used by contractors to enter the fenced area of ​​People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Police guard an entrance previously used by contractors to enter the fenced area of ​​People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

A sign proclaiming

A sign proclaiming “53 Years of Resistance” is seen at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

A person shakes their finger at a California Highway Patrol officer during a protest at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

A person shakes their finger at a California Highway Patrol officer during a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

A protester is led away by police after being arrested during a protest at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

A protester is led away by police after being arrested during a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

Protesters talk to each other as California Highway Patrol officers stage a protest at People's Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Protesters talk to each other as California Highway Patrol officers stage a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim / Special for SFGATE

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