By Momii Palapaz, POOR NEWS NETWORK poverty scholar
I walked onto the property of People’s Park in Berkeley, California, where two tents and a few houseless adults were sleeping on the ground. '`Do you have something to eat?’ asked a lone woman laying on the grass. “Yes”, I responded. I happened to have baked chicken made the night before last, with rice in a to-go container. She immediately chomped on the cold chicken, so hungry, she ate too fast. Her name was Sally. She couldn’t remember how long she was living there. At that moment her only concern was satisfying her hunger. I’m on Ohlone- Huichin land, stolen by the systems of “higher” education. The same system of universities that murdered, stole and are still holding the treasures of indigenous ancestors. UC Berkeley is the overlord, determined to monopolize and manipulate, dominate and drive out the poor and houseless throughout the communities in California.
This whole square block was once inhabited by over 40 tents with residents, the sounds of laughter, groups of students sitting in circles on the grass, embraced lovers laying on a blanket, bouncing basketballs, and aromas of hot food from the Food Not Bombs. For over 50 years, the fight for People’s Park has been constant. Death by the National Guard, personal involvement from then President Ronald Reagan, combat with UC regents in the classrooms to the streets, the park has taken a vicious turn and aggressively active UCB in eliminating People’s Park.
Yesterday is gone and now the displaced residents have been replaced with humongous logs from the Berkeley Hills. Strewn about the park, amidst sawed down trees whacked into wood chips, the logs were said to be brought for fire prevention. But Aidan Hill, organizer with the anti-gentrification of People’s Park said, UC Berkeley says they “really want to stop people from camping here.”
Over 40 people were evicted from the park and sent to Rodeway Inn on Sacramento and University Avenue. In years’ of attempts to build student housing an explosion of UC Berkeley real estate development has intensified in the last few years. 1921 Walnut Street, a rent controlled building was destroyed and UCB is constructing student housing. Residents of Berkeley are losing rent control to UCB, who does not have to follow the City of Berkeley housing laws.
In 2020, POOR MAGAZINE/HOMEFULNESS UNTOUR, took place on the campus of UC Berkeley, specifically at the Hearst Museum where artifacts from Native peoples have been kept in the basement for years. The UNTOUR continued to walk the length of the UC property, stopping along the way to expose the capitalist endeavor of evicting tenants in housed rent controlled units. The final destination of the UNTOUR of over 50 supporters, met at People’s Park. The POOR UNTOUR closed with ceremony, libations and park residents outing the cruelty and greed of UC Berkeley.
The battle is in the courts as the National Landmark status is being proposed, but, “UC Berkeley could care less”, said Aidan Hill, for the People’s Park on Dwight and Bowditch streets. Aidan Hill has been at the forefront in the battle to save People’s Park from housing development. It is of “significant value to keep the park. It is a means of survival. The counterculture is still alive”.
Wednesday at 6PM, organizers to save People’s Park are having a musical support event.