On a high-flying journey from the streets to the rooftops, activists in San Francisco carried out their latest direct action campaign by taking over the vacant Sierra Hotel, demanding it be used to house homeless people.
Even as 1.3 million elderly and disabled Californians had their SSI benefits slashed below the federal poverty level, the American Association of Retired Persons made national headlines after it double-crossed the elderly poor by joining right-wing members of Congress in supporting budget cuts to Social Security benefits.
Berkeley’s business improvement districts continue to obsessively pursue anti-homeless measures in an attempt to cleanse the downtown sidewalks of homeless people. Yet the last thing Berkeley’s small businesses need is another highly politicized and self-destructive campaign about how terrible it is to shop in Berkeley.
Oakland protesters rallied against severe cutbacks imposed by the State of California that will imperil low-income families, seniors, the disabled and poor children. Laurie Jones, director of Alameda County Social Services said, “These cuts hurt our families, they hurt our communities, they hurt our children, they hurt our most needy.”
Homeless youth led a colorful protest at Berkeley City Hall, displaying scores of prayer flags in an appeal for compassion for homeless people targeted by a sitting-ban proposal. The Stand Up For The Right To Sit Down coalition scored at least a temporary victory by sending this proposal “to limbo.”
Same-day protests were held in San Francisco, Berkeley and Portland to challenge laws banning sitting or lying by homeless people. These “copy-cat laws” travel from city to city, as municipal officials copy each other’s efforts to erode human rights by making it illegal for poor people to exist in public.
A unique, quirky and imaginative protest was held at the Berkeley BART on May 22 to protest the City Council’s proposed sitting ban ordinance. Called a “Chair-a-Pillar,” the colorful act of defiance summoned forth a powerful historic echo of past sit-ins for civil rights.
Human rights include not only civil rights, but economic rights as well. George Lippman, chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, said, “Nothing defines the right to human dignity more clearly than such elemental human needs as the right to sit, the right to rest, the right to eat.”
Oakland tenant Aiyahnna Johnson said, “They caused us a lot of stress and anxiety in our community by trying to frighten us out of our housing. They have been trying to pressure us into signing documents in an effort to force us to move out of our homes.”
“Last week, the U.S. told the United Nations that addressing homelessness here at home is a human rights obligation. Cutting vital housing programs gives the lie to those obligations — and damages our credibility as a leader in the world community.” — Maria Foscarinis, NLCHP executive director
We’re reducing government spending by shrinking investment in our long-term well-being while ignoring the military budget. Even cutting nearly a trillion dollars out of the defense budget over the next 10 years would leave the government spending 14 percent more on defense than it did during the Cold War, according to an analysis by the Sustainable Defense Task Force.
The wealthy Tiburon owner of Oakland’s low-income Menlo Hotel has been arrested, and is facing 10 years in prison, on suspicion of hiring someone to burn down the residential hotel, according to officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.