Protesters halt construction on controversial UC Berkeley housing project after tense police standoff

A group of demonstrators broke down an eight-foot chain fence around Berkeley’s historic People’s Park on Wednesday and sided with police officers as a construction team began work on a controversial student housing project. The work was stopped due to security reasons.

The park was cleared overnight on Tuesday and the next day, on Friday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that the University of California, Berkeley – the site’s owner – went on with its housing plan despite being sued by local groups to stop. can proceed.

By noon, parts of the fence had been cut by protesters, leading to small celebrations of retaliation inside the park. Some protesters remained at the site when the university said it had decided to halt construction for the day “due to the destruction of construction materials, illegal protest activity and violence on the part of some protesters”. Some protesters climbed a bulldozer near a basketball court in the park.

In a statement, the university said it plans to assess the situation during the next few days to determine the best way to proceed with the “urgently needed student housing project”. The university plans to build a campus that can accommodate about 1,100 students as well as 125 formerly homeless people. A part of the park will be set aside to commemorate its historical importance in the civil rights movement.

Protests date back to the spring of 1969 when community organizers banded together to transform a site that had been confiscated by the state and university under prestigious domain, and turned into a gathering place now known as People’s Park. Is known. After the university erected a fence around the park, protesters sought to reclaim it, leading to a bloody battle that resulted in police shooting and killing one person and injuring dozens of others. Have become. That May 15, 1969 uprising, known as “Bloody Thursday”, sparked even more protests, and then-California Governor Ronald Reagan called for the capture of Berkeley, about 12 miles east of San Francisco. The National Guard was called for.

“It certainly brings up memories of the university’s arrogance and reluctance to consider the concerns of the community,” said Dan Siegel, a 1969 law school student who was arrested after giving a speech on Bloody Thursday went. campus rally that he ended by urging the crowd to “go down there and take the park”. The Associated Press reached out to Siegel, a lawyer specializing in labor law, on Wednesday afternoon after People’s Park construction was halted.

After re-fencing on Wednesday morning, about 100 police officers, some in riot gear, were in the park as the crew began cutting down trees, in defiance of onlookers, which were mostly kept outside barricades. .

“Power to the people!” Amidst the slogans, the police looked towards the audience. Most of the protesters marched together before the university’s construction was halted. UC Berkeley police said in a statement that protesters threw stones, bottles and glass at employees working in the park, in what is considered a serious assault. The department did not say whether anyone had been arrested.

On Wednesday, two or three homeless people present in the park were offered shelter, transportation and storage for their belongings. The university did not say whether they had accepted the offer. The university said another 46 homeless people who lived in the park had previously accepted offers of shelter at a motel paid for by the city of Berkeley.

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