Residents of South Berkeley homeless encampment celebrate eviction postponement

Aren Saunders-Gonzalez/Staff

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Preparations for a protest Tuesday night transformed into a celebration for residents of a South Berkeley homeless encampment at 63rd and Adeline streets, after news reached the camp that their eviction — scheduled for that evening — had been postponed.

The BART Police Department issued eviction notices to two South Berkeley encampments Saturday, requiring that the areas be vacated within 72 hours. After residents of one of the encampments, commonly known as the “Here There” encampment, filed a lawsuit against BART on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup temporarily prohibited BART from removing any people or their possessions from the encampment Tuesday.

Alsup’s ruling requires that the plaintiffs submit an amended complaint and motion by Oct. 26, to which BART will have to file a response by Oct. 30. The plaintiffs will meet for another hearing Oct. 31 at 9 a.m., where they will present their full case.

“In the meantime … we celebrate tonight because we’re not going to be evicted,” said James Blair, a member of the encampment and one of the plaintiffs listed in the complaint. “We reach out to the community and organize. We prepare our case for next week. And that way, if we win, we have another party, and if we lose, we have a lot of people here that are willing to struggle against them implementing the eviction.”

About 40 people gathered at the “Here There” encampment in support of residents’ fight against eviction, including members of local organizations Youth Spirit Artworks and Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE. Organizers handed out flyers to passing cars, urging them to call BART and chanting “Housing is a right. Call BART tonight.”

Despite the postponement of the eviction, DxE member Rachel Arima said the organization still wanted to show its support for securing the long-term stability of the “Here There” encampment.

“This is not just a one-week encampment,” Arima said. “This is a permanent home for those who can’t afford housing in the city.”

The judge’s ruling does not apply to the second encampment that also received an eviction notice, located on the other side of the BART tracks and unaffiliated with the “Here There” encampment. Because members of the second encampment are not part of the lawsuit, Alsup’s ruling does not prevent them from being evicted, and the encampment was disbanded Wednesday morning.

The “Here There” encampment is part of a protest that began last year and was organized by homeless activist group First They Came for the Homeless. The encampment was repeatedly disbanded by the city until it settled at 63rd and Adeline streets, where it has remained since early this year. During that period of continuous disbandments, many members lost gear and medicine that were important to their well-being, said Mike Zint, founder of First They Came for the Homeless.

Zint added that as the encampment is home to many disabled residents, eviction endangers residents whose mobility is limited.

With a week until their next hearing, the plaintiffs hope to present a case that will prevent their eviction.

“We have a week to complete our case. That in itself is a victory — it’s actually a bit of a miracle because of the way it transpired,” Zint said. “The homeless are the ones who put together, who actually did the writing on this and did the filing. And apparently, some of the attorneys thought what we were doing was impossible — that it couldn’t get accomplished. And it still got accomplished, and it was the homeless that did it.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.