Photos by Ian Castro
Update: On July 29, an Alameda County Superior Court judge lifted the stay order on People’s Park, saying the UC can begin construction because their plan does not violate the California Environmental Equity Act. This decision means the university may begin building at any moment.
On July 6, some-200 people gathered at Berkeley’s Civic Center Park to to protest development on People’s Park. The event began with a rally, where speakers took to the stage to talk about the need to protect the park as a cultural landmark and community gathering place. Paul Lee, a visiting scholar in Cal’s African American studies department, put the history of the park in context with the greater fight for civil rights, saying that young people play a key role in maintaining the momentum for these movements.“Do not see yourselves as alone or as isolated or as powerless,” he said. “Recognize that behind you is a river of struggle.”
The group then marched one mile to People’s Park for a barbeque, holding protest signs and chanting along their way.
Park advocates are not just using rallies to thwart development of the space—they have also taken to the courts. On July 29, an Alameda County Superior Court judge will hear a lawsuit by the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group and Make UC a Good Neighbor arguing that the environmental impact report (EIR) accompanying Cal’s Long Range Development Plan—the plan that outlines the People’s Park project, among others—was inadequate. One prong of their argument is that the university did not adequately consider other areas on which to build student housing. They point to the Ellsworth and Channing Parking Garage as one potential alternative—a space that was slated for demolition in 2016, and has roughly the same footprint as the planned development.
After the university closed the bathrooms, shut off electricity and water, and dropped off several piles of mulch at the park last month, park advocates filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the university, asking the court to pause development until the July 29 case can be heard. On July 8, a California appeals court ruled that “all construction, demolition, tree clearing, or other landscape altering activities at People’s Park” must pause until that July 29 case is heard—or, until a pending appeal from June 23 is heard—whichever comes first.
These photos come from the Defend People’s Park rally that took place on July 6. Park advocates plan to hold events such as potlucks, mural painting, and gardening at the park all summer.
Alastair Boone is the Editor in Chief of Street Spirit.