Berkeley community members, hosted by Direct Action Everywhere, marched from the Gilman Street homeless encampment to Berkeley City Hall on Feb. 29 in support of a “Green New City.”
Ideas behind a “Green New City” include bolstering animal rights, including removing the horse racing track Golden Gate Fields, and general support from the city for more climate-centered action, according to Cassie King, an activist with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE.
“Today is the first day where we are launching a campaign to make Berkeley the ‘Green New City,’ which is, of course, a play on the Green New Deal but taking things a step further where they need to be taken,” King said. “We are working to make Berkeley truly the first ‘Green New City’ — tackling the climate crisis head-on, including animal agriculture, creating housing and protecting the habitat of all animals.”
The marchers walked about four miles through Berkeley, starting at the homeless encampment on Gilman Street, which is near Golden Gate Fields. Before marching to City Hall, individuals taking part in the rally collected and disposed of multiple bags of trash from the homeless encampment, and they also kept some trash bags to bring to City Hall, according to King.
King alleged that Golden Gate Fields is a symbol of how animals are harmed and used as “a luxury mode of entertainment” when the race track could be turned into permanent housing for low-income communities.
“The first thing we need is for the government to actually take these issues seriously and for the government to come meet with us and work with us on concrete change, like shutting down Golden Gate Fields and creating permanent housing,” King said. “Ultimately, I would say the long-term vision is to make Berkeley the ‘Green New City’ — humane and sustainable — which means it’s a plant-based city where everyone has housing and everyone is safe.”
Along the way, marchers chanted phrases including “Love is unstoppable, another world is possible,” “Housing for all, justice for animals” and “One struggle, one fight, climate justice, animal rights,” while a group of drummers beat on plastic bins and “street marshals” in support of the rally herded the crowd through city streets.
Campus junior Cheyenne Tsai, who is a member of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy and is also involved with DxE, said the event was meant to show the city the support behind the “Green New City” campaign. Tsai added that she hopes more students will get involved.
“We’ve all heard of the Green New Deal, right?” Tsai said. “We’re waiting for other leaders to change the world for us, but I think what’s so inspiring about ‘Green New City’ is that it’s right here in Berkeley and to bring the philosophy behind the Green New Deal to life right here in Berkeley.”
Patrick Wayne-Ford, a resident of the Gilman Street homeless encampment, said he hopes that his community will eventually have a safe, clean and protected environment to call home.
The goals of the rally are to ensure equality for everyone, including animals, and to create safe housing for all, according to Wayne-Ford.
“In the military, they have this saying ‘No man left behind.’ We are not in the military, but we are part of the community and so we are human beings if nothing less. Don’t separate us by our financial status, by our ethnicity, by what we believe in,” Wayne-Ford said. “I just want equality for everybody. We’re just looking for a hand up, not a handout, that’s all.”
Angelina Wang contributed to this report.