Monthlong encampment at Downtown Berkeley post office ends

Nathaniel Solley/Staff

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After 30 days of camping in front of the Berkeley main post office, protesters hoping to prevent the sale of the building vacated the property by Thursday morning.

On Wednesday evening, Berkeley Police Department removed the tents in front of the post office in Downtown Berkeley, said Officer Jennifer Coats, spokesperson for BPD. Citing growing safety concerns, BPD and U.S. Postal Service investigators asked the protesters to leave the post office steps.

In an Aug. 26 letter addressed to the mayor and City Council members, City Manager Christine Daniel expressed concerns about increased “criminal activity” related to the encampment, including incidents of physical assault, several arrests for weapons possession and a serious dog bite.

“It just wasn’t safe,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch. “People were setting up tents on steps, and they were utilizing garbage cans in the lobby as restrooms. There was alcohol, and some people even slept on the roof.”

According to Fitch, postal investigators and police handed out notifications of possible arrest to protesters Monday.

“It is my understanding the few people that were there last night left on their own,” Coats said. “Berkeley Police Department went and collected what appeared to be abandoned property.”

Coats said that property collected during the removal process had been booked for safekeeping and that no arrests were made when police cleared the property.

However, according to an online post by the Berkeley Post Office Defense, a loose collection of individuals working to challenge the sale, many of the protesters were attending a march in support of Trayvon Martin in Oakland when about 20 police officers “chose to move in” on the encampment in Berkeley. The officers confiscated belongings without warning and removed the tents, the post says.

An appeal filed by Mayor Tom Bates to stop the sale of the post office was dismissed Tuesday by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Despite these events, the fight is not over for the protesters, said David Welsh, a retired letter carrier who had been on the Berkeley post office’s steps since July 27. Welsh said that although the encampment has ended, protesters still are taking steps to raise community awareness.

“We’re having a celebration on Saturday to celebrate the monthlong encampment,” Welsh said. “The next step is to have a concert and teach-in, which will be on the steps.”

Contact J. Hannah Lee at [email protected].