Protests continue despite warnings from US Postal Service

Nathaniel Solley/Staff
Protesters continue to occupy outside the Downtown Berkeley Post Office despite warnings.

About a dozen protesters continue to occupy the steps and facade of the Berkeley post office despite ongoing requests from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to move off of the post office’s property.

Protesters have been occupying the space for nearly two weeks in a last-ditch effort to prevent the sale of the post office to private developers. The investigators, federal agents dedicated to enforcing Postal Service regulation, warned protesters verbally and provided them with the service’s rules governing conduct on Postal Service property on Friday. Agents have not attempted to forcefully remove the protesters but continue to monitor the scene.

Currently, the protest is being held by four or five activists handing out pamphlets and talking to passers-by as well as a few loiterers who say they will remain despite the threat of law enforcement.

“They’ve threatened to remove us, but we’re still holding our positions and staying there around the clock,” said Mike Wilson of Strike Debt Bay Area, an advocacy group that is organizing the protest.

Augustine Ruiz, a regional Postal Service spokesperson, said that he was concerned that the protest was impeding customers from entering and exiting the facility safely and expressed further concern regarding reported vandalism. Ruiz said that the Postal Service would enforce safety regulation but not stop the protest itself.

“There’s nothing wrong with public congregation, and there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, as long as they’re doing it peacefully,” Ruiz said. “We’re not arguing the fact that they have a right to do what they’re doing — we’re saying there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.”

William Rogers, acting city manager for the city of Berkeley, wrote in a memo on Saturday that Berkeley Police Department will not intervene unless a threat to public safety arises during enforcement action by Postal Service police.

A rally is planned for Saturday, when protesters will march between FedEx, UPS and UC Berkeley’s Blum Center, demonstrating against companies and individuals who are involved in the sale. Protesters cite FedEx and UPS as prospective buyers and allege that Richard Blum — who is chair of the board of CBRE, the corporate real estate company brokering the sale — could make a personal profit if the post office is sold.

Contact Simon Greenhill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @simondgreenhill.