Homeless encampment in front of Berkeley post office disbanded Tuesday

Nicole White/Senior Staff

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A homeless encampment in front of the Berkeley Main Post Office was dismantled early Tuesday morning, ending a 17-month occupation of the area.

About 5 a.m., members of the encampment were met with members of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Berkeley Police Department officers. According to Mike Wilson, a member of the encampment, protesters were allegedly dragged out of tents, and their belongings were seized by officials.

According to U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson Jeff Fitch, who was present at the encampment, individuals who were willing to leave were not issued citations. Five individuals who remained were cited and then released.

Individuals could leave with their medication, wallets and important papers. Everything else was taken away in trucks by maintenance workers, according to Fitch.

“I lost pretty much everything I owned except my backpack,” said Mike Zint, a member of the encampment. He specified that the only individuals who were issued citations were those who were part of the protest, and not a recent group of alleged drug dealers that had set up March 19 along the west side of the building, according to Zint.

As of noon, the area outside of the post office bordering Milvia Street had been fenced off. Federal code regulating conduct on postal property requires that post office property must be “physically distinguishable from adjacent municipal or other public sidewalks.” Orange fencing and temporary bollards now block off the spot where the encampment previously was.

“We’re going to leave (the fencing) up,” Fitch said. “And we’re going to have uniformed postal police officers on site.”

On April 2, protesters issued a call to action against a threat to evict a homeless encampment from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Two groups of activists — First They Came for the Homeless and Berkeley Post Office Defenders — have occupied the grounds of the Berkeley Main Post Office continuously since late November 2014, Wilson said in an email, adding that four individuals are still without shelter.

“I was kind of surprised this morning, but I guess I just got so used to it being there all these years,” said Jadalyn Kanazawa, a Berkeley High School senior. Kanazawa added that she never felt afraid from the demonstration being there.

Protesters initially assembled in November 2014 in opposition to the post office’s pending sale to property management company Hudson McDonald. The deal, however, collapsed in December 2014, and the post office remained a public entity. The group continued to protest the privatization of public entities across the nation, Wilson said in an earlier email.

A court date at the federal magistrate court in either Oakland or San Francisco will be determined.

Staff writer Pamela Larson contributed to this report.

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Adrienne Shih is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneshih.