Cal suspends construction at People’s Park over ‘violence’

UC Berkeley said Wednesday afternoon that construction of a student housing project in People’s Park, which began this morning, is on hold due to “destruction of building materials, unlawful protest activity and violence.”

Police in riot gear arrived at the square lot just off Telegraph Avenue before sunrise to evacuate a small homeless encampment and fence off the area. As soon as the sun rose, a work team appeared on the site, brought construction machinery and cut down trees.

A worker cuts down a tree in People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A worker cuts down a tree in People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

“They are currently cutting down trees in the park with chainsaws,” said Ramon Mendoza, who is part of a movement to protect the park. A video posted on Twitter at 9:36 showed tree work in progress.

CROWN Posted a 9:23 a.m. video of protesters blocking construction trucks “to prevent them from clearing trees.”

As the day progressed, more and more protesters swarmed the site, tearing down the fence and flooding the park.

Protesters attempt to tear down a fence in People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Protesters attempt to tear down a fence in People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

UC Berkeley said multiple arrests had been made but could not provide detailed information on numbers and charges as of 2 p.m


The group Defends the People’s Park said Early in the morning that several forklifts, large movers and trucks with fences were in the park before sunrise.

“They throw away residents’ belongings,” the group continued Twitter.

The university said in a statement that when work began this morning there were two or three people without accommodation at the park who “had previously been offered accommodation who have been repeatedly advised and informed that the park will be closing soon.” that overnight camping in the park is not permitted.”

“Last night, when the park was closed, each person was again offered alternative shelter, transportation and item storage, an offering available to all who need and want it,” the university said.

People block contractors and their equipment used to fell trees from exiting People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

People block contractors and their equipment used to fell trees from exiting People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that UC Berkeley can begin construction of a building 16 storey building which will accommodate more than 1,100 students.

Activists and student groups stood on the fringes and protested the park’s closure. They have long disputed the university’s project and have called for the site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to remain a public green space.

Heavy machinery pushes over a sequoia in People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Heavy machinery pushes over a sequoia in People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

Located at the heart of the Bay Area’s high-priced and notoriously tight real estate market, UC Berkeley faces a shortage of student housing. It has “the lowest percentage of beds for its student body of any campus in the UC system,” according to a 2017 survey. The survey also found that 10% of respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point while studying at UC Berkeley.

In addition to student accommodation, the People’s Park housing complex would offer up to 125 apartments providing supportive housing with on-site services for homeless and low-income residents, as well as open landscaped areas.

Protesters sit on a structure in People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Protesters sit on a structure in People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

“More than 60% of the 6-acre site will be preserved as open space and revitalized into a renewed park area that reinforces the site’s history,” the university said said. The site will also provide “a reminder of the park’s past and historical significance.”

The university’s plans also include providing transitional housing for people living in People’s Park, with services to support the transition to permanent housing, a website dedicated to the project says.

This is an evolving story and details will be added as they emerge.

A lone protester sits in the last standing sequoia in People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

A lone protester sits in the last standing sequoia in People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

Police monitor an entrance previously used by contractors to enter the fenced-off area at People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Police monitor an entrance previously used by contractors to enter the fenced-off area at People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

A sign that proclaims

A sign that reads “53 Years of Resistance” is seen at People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

A person shakes the finger of a California Highway Patrol officer during a protest at People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

A person shakes the finger of a California Highway Patrol officer during a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

A protester is led away by police after being arrested Wednesday, August 3, 2022 during a protest at People's Park in Berkeley, California.

A protester is led away by police after being arrested Wednesday, August 3, 2022 during a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, California.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

Demonstrators speak to one another as California Highway Patrol officers monitor a protest at People's Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Demonstrators speak to one another as California Highway Patrol officers monitor a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, California on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Jungho Kim/Special for SFGATE

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