‘He spoke the truth like a perfect bell ringing’: William Barclay Caldeira, aka ‘300,’ dies on Berkeley streets

Christine Schwartz /Courtesy

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On Friday evening, a vigil organized by Berkeley City Councilmember Cheryl Davila was held on the steps of the Berkeley Police Department to honor the life of the late William Barclay Caldeira, or “300.”

A diverse and somber crowd gathered to celebrate Barclay Caldeira’s life and honor his memory. The audience included City Council members, former co-workers and friends from all walks of life. The memorial included songs, prayers and stories about Barclay Caldeira, who was described by those who knew him as highly intelligent and politically engaged.

“He spoke the truth like a perfect bell ringing,” said Councilmember Sophie Hahn, adding that “Barclay was truly and obviously a brilliant person.”

A Berkeley resident, Barclay Caldeira was remembered as a San Francisco bike messenger, an avid participant in city politics, a loving friend, an independent thinker and a “truth-teller.”    

The crowd gathered in the cold, forming a semicircle, candles flickering as members of the crowd offered passionate, tearful eulogies about Barclay Caldeira’s life. The memorial took place in a location where Barclay Caldeira loved to garden and do maintenance.

Davila recounted meeting Barclay Caldeira on the steps outside the department during her campaign. She was attending a City Council meeting when Barclay Caldeira, standing outside, recognized her and enthusiastically offered to help her pass out campaign materials. Davila added that Barclay Caldeira was one of the reasons she got elected.

“He was an amazing man. He was just so smart. He knew everything that was going on in council. … He would make these amazing comments, and he knew exactly what was going on in the streets as well,” Davila said at the vigil.

Several members of the audience spoke of the hardships Barclay Caldeira faced in his life, bringing up incidents in which he was mistreated, such as his eviction from a property. Full-time caretaker and activist Christine Schwartz said, “His landlord was harassing him.” After the ordeal, Schwartz learned that he was living on the streets.

Barclay Caldeira was unable to resolve his housing issues and remained on the streets. Individuals who presented at his memorial mentioned facing different barriers to helping him at the time and lamented that they did not do more.

David Hall, a lawyer at the East Bay Community Law Center, worked with Barclay Caldeira on his housing case, which they lost. According to Hall, during the case, Barclay Caldeira crafted a “novel legal argument” that is currently in use today.

Another friend and community member, Dominic Matias, said that despite enduring hardships, Barclay Caldeira prioritized the service of his community.

Davila later posted in the Facebook event group, highlighting the celebration of Barclay Caldeira’s life and also proposing a call to action.

“We must learn to deploy viable solutions to eradicate these societal shortcomings which have soiled the fabric of our fine community,” Davila wrote in the post.

Contact Sasha Langholz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LangholzSasha‏.