‘Block party’ blocks traffic on Telegraph

In another recent demonstration supporting People’s Park, local activists and community members closed off a block of Telegraph Avenue late Saturday night.

The “block party” — which consisted mostly of socializing in the street to the sound of live music — prevented traffic from moving down the avenue between Dwight Way and Haste Street. A flier advertising the event stated it was sponsored by a group called the Telegraph Community Improvement District, and though the group did not have a permit, the Berkeley Police Department did not put an end to the event.

“This is in response to generally the attack on People’s Park,” said local resident Kate Degraaf at the event, adding that for her, it was “about re-asserting common space.”

According to Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, though the department was alerted to the traffic-blocking event at about 10:54 p.m., a significant amount of its resources — including 12 officers and two sergeants — were responding  to an armed pedestrian robbery in South Berkeley.

The department requested assistance from UCPD, which sent four officers to monitor the activity until the concert at the Hearst Greek Theatre let out and UCPD “tapered down,” Kusmiss said in an email Tuesday.

UCPD kept BPD’s dispatch center informed of activity at the event and requested that a Berkeley police sergeant respond when available, according to Kusmiss. At about 11:35 p.m., a sergeant left the South Berkeley robbery scene to assess the event on Telegraph and determined the department would “go out if something else happens more serious than the traffic hazard,” Kusmiss said in the email.

“There are many times, if not hourly, in the course of policing that prioritizing is essential,” Kusmiss said in the email. “This was one of those challenging times … there was no threat to life at the Telegraph street blockage.”

The block party came after a tree-sit in the park — held partly in response to a Telegraph Business Improvement District proposal suggesting a ban on unlicensed events in the park — ended last Tuesday after one of the demonstrators fell from the tree.

Locals at the event Saturday expressed similar frustration with the Telegraph Business Improvement District.

“It’s never been like any other park in Berkeley, and I don’t think people are going to stand by,” said Berkeley resident Russell Bates at the event.

According to Kusmiss, the department’s Computer Aided Dispatch noted at 2:55 a.m. that the street was open.