United States Postal Service maintenance workers remove community garden

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The community garden located outside the Berkeley Post Office was removed by United States Postal Service, or USPS, maintenance workers Wednesday, after two years of ongoing disputes between the post office and protesters.

The garden was put in place in late 2014 when homeless activists began occupying the grounds in protest of the sale of the post office to a privately owned property management company. The homeless encampment was disbanded in April, after city police and postal service workers informed the protesters that they were trespassing on government property.

Although the removal of protesters in April had no effect on the garden, a fence was set up around the garden approximately one month later, making it impossible for community members to access and tend to the garden.

“There was no reason to put up the fence, except to show who is in charge,” said Mike Zint, a member of Berkeley’s homeless community and cofounder of homeless advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless, in an email. “This is a slap in the face to the hundreds of people who fought against the theft of the commons.”

According to Zint, the garden was put in place for the people of Berkeley to claim ownership of land that belongs to the community. He added that many community members donated plants, materials and their own time to the garden.

“The garden was utilized by all kinds of people. Homeless and housed alike were harvesting leaves off the spinach, lettuces and chard,” Zint said. “It cleaned up and revitalized a patch of dirt that was contaminated with litter and an eyesore.”

While Zint argues that it is the people who own post offices, Gus Ruiz, a spokesperson for the USPS, said the encampments and garden were removed because they were not appropriate uses of federal property. Ruiz added that many customers had complained about the “unsightly and unsafe area” around the post office.

“Our maintenance people removed anything non-postal installed, displayed or planted when the fencing went up, to protect our property from the homeless encampments,” Ruiz said in a written statement. “Since the encampments and the garden were not legitimate use of Federal property, we had them removed.”

The removal of the garden occurred over the course of two weeks, according to Guy “Mike” Lee, another member of the city’s homeless community and organizer for First They Came for the Homeless. Lee added that while there has been talk of bringing back the garden, the fence is separating the community from the garden.

“We were attempting to grow our own food and provide it to the community and that actually started happening,” Lee said. “I think it was symbolic of us having ownership over that property.”

Contact Simmone Shah at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @simmoneshah.

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  • Sam Spade

    Many of the comments made here are based on assumptions about the poor. This is reflective of a class perspective and probably a lot of resentment. Now I can understand that because if i were these folks slaving away 60 hours a week chained to the machine I’d be resentful to. Seeing us folks of leisure eating big stylie meals while they eat top ramen living the high life. what they don’t see is all the suffering and pain of being victimized constantly by a system that places profit before people.
    There is also a lack of critical thinking. If I didn’t know better I’d think y’all were a bunch of hillbillies accepting what ever you are told, Mindlessly voting for professional politicians expect different results. Angry when your highest hopes and aspirations are not even thought of by these same false promises. You lash out tell me to leave town as if that is going to solve your problem of escalating cost of living fueled by real estate speculation. Its far easier to blame the victims then to confront the oppressor of us all.

  • Tom Ago

    How is this whole affair any different from the Bundy occupation in Oregon?

    • Mike Zint

      No guns, we were fighting the theft of what we all own, we lasted 17 months, no one was killed. The Post Office is constitutional, article 1, section 8.

  • Sam Spade

    It should be noted that our eviction was part of an ongoing strategy to prevent homeless people from organizing. Specifically my opponent helped postal authorities design,plan and implement the eviction in hopes of disrupting my campaign for mayor. They have failed miserably in that attempt. I am going to continue to be the voice of the voiceless

    • Pearl Clutcher

      Have you ever been housed or employed in Berkeley? Why not head back to Las Vegas, your home?

      • Sam Spade

        Oh goody another proponent of Berkeley is for only certain types of people. I probably contribute more to this economy then you do as far as percentage of income. So if economics determines who stays and goes between the two of us better pack yer bags

        • Pearl Clutcher

          “as percentage of income” — yes, I’m sure you are at 100% … in sales tax. In absolute dollars, it’s a pittance and there’s almost no chance that your “contributions” are net positive when set against the services you consume but do not pay for.

          Berkeley is home to many kinds of people. It was never your home though. You’ve obviously failed to make a life here. Why drag it out when you can return to your roots in a much less expensive part of the country?

          If you were actually employed/housed here at one time and fell upon hard times, you’d deserve sympathy. But showing up with your hand out? A one way bus ticket is the upper limit.

          • Sam Spade

            since i consume NO services here your point is moot given the opportunity to go inside im there

          • Mike Zint

            I have noticed our critics are generally ignorant. The only question that had real legitimacy was about the Bundy take over. The rest seem to be from computer bound wanna be’s that think trolling a news paper article is going to make a difference. No it won’t, but it is amusing to watch what is wrong with our country present itself so clearly. Guilt with out a trial and go home seem to be a theme. I am home. I was born here. But personal attacks are way more important than facts. That is what happens when you watch the news or read MSM. That is how you are taught, programmed, propagandized, and controlled. Let me suggest to you trolls, you may need to re examine who you are as a person and perhaps make some changes to better yourselves.

  • Mike Zint

    You say encampment, I say occupation. And since these are my rights, I get to decide what to call the action. You do not have to like my tactics anymore than I like your attack on my character, but the first amendment exists so we can have these abilities. Homeless people are supposed to have rights too. Yet we are victims all too often of a corrupt system and abusive police state. The post office occupation was done by request from a friend in the Letter Carriers Union, and I spent 17 months working on important social issues for like a living wage, affordable housing, and civil rights. Sitting down and not complying is better than violence, and occupying in protest is the tactic I chose.

    • Anybody But Jesse

      It was an illegal, self-aggrandizing encampment that made an awful mess of crime and filth for no good purpose. The first amendment does not exist so that you can set up camp wherever you like. It protects your speech from government oppression. As I am not the government, I am not oppressing you by naming your foolishness for what it is.

      You’ve accomplished zippo on those issues. How about getting yourself housed and employed first? Or rejoining your family on the east coast?

      • Mike Zint

        If it was illegal, why did the federal government drop the charges. And again, you say camp. To conduct a long term occupation, certain gear is required. To camp, you need similar gear, but you get to enjoy a fire, cooking over that fire, and no fear of being dragged away by cops. And it doesn’t matter if I accomplish things, it matters that I try.

        • Pearl Clutcher

          Because they didn’t see any point in spending the $$ to lock you up. It’s still illegal, which is why you aren’t there anymore.

          When are you heading east to join your family so they can help you get indoors? You’ve done enough damage here.

          • Sam Spade

            i love this lets get rid of all the people who aren’t just like us mentality. Oh but the same people who refuse to build housing we can afford are the same people who have allowed the crime rate to escalate out of control, refuse to fix the sidewalks, refuse to fix the infrastructure. But that’s ok we just get rid of the poor and everything will be all right. Why the bad guys will just disappear. Why the sidewalks will fix themselves. Earthquake? We don’t have to worry about no stinking eathquake. The infrastruture will withstand it because we got rid of all those poor people and the bonus is most of them are colored. Yes indeed lets go back to the good old days of Jim Crow, Sundwon laws and my personal favorite apartheid

          • Mike Zint

            The thought of guilt without a trial scares me. And you suggest such a thing. Perhaps instead of telling me to leave the state I was born in you should move to a country that has no rights. I will stay here and fight for those who understand the importance of due process, law, and justice.

  • Anybody But Jesse

    Good riddance to the encampment,the garden, and the violence and drug dealing/use they attracted. Zint and Lee have both never been housed or employed in Berkeley. Why anyone would listen to them is a mystery Zint in particular has been associated with three different problem encampments.