Berkeley High concerned about Civic Park Occupy camp

The Occupy Berkeley encampment at Civic Center Park has grown over the past few weeks. Photo: Arturo Snuze

Berkeley High School Principal Pasquale Scuderi says supervising BHS students during the lunch hour and after school has become more challenging for the school with the growth of the Occupy Berkeley tent-city in Civic Center Park.

In a letter to the BHS community sent out by email Wednesday, Scuderi noted that the burgeoning camp has made it more difficult for school administrators and safety staff to keep an eye on and visually identify students among the settlers in the park, a number of whom “may not be connected to or interested in the advocacy being conducted by the actual Occupy Berkeley movement”.

Scuderi, who estimates there are now around 90 tents in the park, says there have been no negative interactions with the campers. The school currently has two administrators monitoring the park during the lunch hour.

As Berkeleyside reported earlier this week, the Occupy Berkeley camp, which is one of the few Occupy encampments in the country not to have been disbanded or threatened with eviction, is undergoing internal schisms as the discrete groups who make up the tent-city try to learn to live together and set ground rules. About half the campers are estimated to be homeless, and there are ongoing challenges for the campers handling residents with mental illnesses, as well as cases of on-site thefts.

To date, the city has not taken an official stand on the Occupy Berkeley camp, although the City Council adopted a resolution supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement in general. The city manager has issued several notices to the camp since it was established on October 15. On October 24, the demonstrators were issued a notice ordering them to cease camping out; this was followed by several notices asking the campers to take action on matters on health and safety, public safety and alcohol.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington visits the camp most days. He says he has seen evidence that the campers, while often divided philosophically, have responded well to the city-issued directives. “They have created policies at their general assemblies to respond to city requests,” he says. Worthington says that after one notice about the food area, a concerted effort was made to clean up the area and address concerns.

In his letter, Scuderi said he did not want to be alarmist and supported the expression of free speech. He concluded: “We will continue to monitor the situation and will regularly consult with district, city, and law enforcement representatives, as well as folks involved in the movement, so as to stay current on all developments and on the plans of all involved.”

Occupy Berkeley remains, but experiment is proving fragile [11.28.11]
Occupy Berkeley consolidates camp, supports Oakland [11.02.11]
All quiet at Occupy Berkeley camp at MLK Park [10.26.11]
Berkeley joins 900 cities to condemn corporate greed [10.16.11]
Wall Street protests come to Berkeley [10.09.11]

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • David

    This is a disaster just waiting to happen. That’s our way of dealing with things. The city is letting  another People’s Park occur.

  • Truely

    I was just about to say the same thing… another “people’s” park. Then, 99% won’t get to use it once the 1% of the “people” take it over.

  • Chris

    Very eloquently put. Like.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Mr. Scuderi, for speaking up and for asking the City to pay attention! We may all agree (or not) with the sentiments of the occupy movement, but this park is not appropriate for long term camping. And there are laws against doing so. The fact that it is across from a high school with over 3000 students and the site for community events such as the farmers market and various fairs, the city needs to at the very least have a plan for the park’s use. There’s no mention in the upcoming Parks Commission meeting agenda – where are they on this? Where’s the City? It’s not on their agenda either. Ms. Taylor, thank you for the article and the one earlier in the week. Perhaps the next piece can ask the question about the silence about this long term camping from city leaders. What are the different scenarios should the campers from other cities move here since these other cities seem to have a response and plan? BTW, the Park Commission is meeting this Monday from 7-9pm at San Pablo Park and has a open comment time in the beginning of the meeting. 

  • libraterian

    It would be Worthington to try scape any ‘progressive’ cred off this mangy crew. This simply reaffirms what we all already knew: Berkeley’s politicos are everybody’s bitch.  

  • Berkeley Resident

    I walk by the park every Monday on the way to baby swim class and every week I see more tents, more trash and last Monday I noticed that the port a potties are overflowing.  The area is starting to smell funny and there is gross water/wetness and what I think might be toilet paper running along the sidewalk.  I have misse Farmer’s market the passed few weeks.  I wonder how the Market merchants feel and how they are impacted by this situation…..

  • libraterian

    The gist of my previous comment (moderated out of existence) concerned Berkeley’s venerability to any and every allegedly progressive ‘burp’. The consequence of which has yet to play out at MLK park. However, as a BHS parent, I am heartened by the subtlety of mind displayed in Principal Scuderi’s letter. 

    If, as suggested by others below, something disastrous should happen, let’s not forget: It was Worthington who chose to validate this illegal “occupation” on the highschool’s doorstep.

  • Anonymous

    A tent is not a message nor a movement.  I nearly avoided reading this as I hoped ( prayed ) that this has been taken to a higher and more inclusive level.  With all of the homeless and mentally ill all clumped together, it’s only a matter of days until it implodes.  Hopefully there will be no violent deaths like there were at Rainbow Village not so long ago on the Berkeley waterfront.  What is this odd tent village all about anyhow?  I mean after a major earthquake most of Berkeley’s open space will look like this, however there has been no such quake.  This is not going to end well.  

  • Anonymous

    Occupy berkeley is dirty filthy and gross. Dangerous soon.

  • Just shut it down already.

    I have no problem with the message, muddled though it may be, and no problem with people choosing to protest. But robbing the Berkeley taxpayers of yet another park and doing thousands of dollars of destruction to the turf is no way to get people to join your cause.

    His continued involvement in this mess just shows that Kriss Worthington is a naive fool who cares more about getting his name in the newspaper and being seen supporting “liberal” causes than he does about the Berkeley citizens he’s supposed to represent. Civic Park isn’t even in his district, but he still finds time to visit it every day while Telegraph crumbles. Under his watch Berkeley’s most vibrant and most famous Avenue has descended into blight, and he’s more concerned with pandering to squatters than he is with taking care of imminent problems within his district.

    Only in Berkeley would someone this out of touch, who seems to be so bad at his job, continue to get re-elected year after year.

  • Laura

    How many sex offenders are among the campers?

    Have rats been attracted to the food yet?

  • Bruce Love

    From my perspective:

    Scuderi questions how “connected to or interested in the advocacy being conducted by the actual Occupy Berkeley movement” many of the campers are.

    He is not alone in that.   That question is an ongoing, at time contentious topic of discussion and effort among Occupy Berkeley supporters.   Quite a few are at least as unhappy with the state of the camp as many of the comments here.

    As an example of the difficulties:  While the number of tents is quite large, participation in the general assembly has not grown accordingly.   There have been problems with campers disrupting the general assembly, ignoring agreed upon camp rules, and so forth.   Large segments of campers apparently reject Occupy Berkeley, even while taking up the name.

    (I want to be clear, though, that there is also a subset of campers who are very much “with” Occupy Berkeley.   The camp is heterogeneous, in that sense.)

    Up to a point it is easy to build notional support within Occupy Berkeley for maintaining a cleaner camp, minimizing impacts on competing uses for the space, working better with the city (and school district) to keep the civil in civil disobedience, and using a transgressive camp as a practical stage upon which convene a broader range of supporters.   Occupy can grow into a broader-based maturity beyond manifestly unsustainable camping stunts.  Yet it is a fruitless effort if so many of the campers either simply don’t care about the broader Occupy or are actively hostile to such “outside” influence from non-campers.

    Zuccoti / Liberty Square famously encountered a similar problem but with a difference.  There, such troubles existed but were largely overwhelmed by a critical mass of more engaged and positively oriented Occupy supporters.

    In my (shared) personal view the Occupy Berkeley encampment was not intended to be and almost certainly will not successfully function as a long-term homeless camp, mental health clinic, relief office, flop-house, provocateur base, or hide-out — no matter how needed or beneficial such things might or might not be.   There has not been any consensus decision by Occupy Berkeley to create those kinds of institutions as the main “OB” direct action.   The scant logistical and material support for the camp is consequently partly eroding and partly (apparently) shifting to sources more interested in supporting the camp than in the Occupy political movement itself.  

    All that said, it’s also my (I think shared) personal view that things are not nearly so simple as “campers = bad”.   Nor is it quite so simple as someone just snapping their fingers to “shut it down”.  Nor is it a foregone conclusion that the camp is “not Occupy”:

    Among the people who come looking for a homeless camp, mental health clinic, relief office, flop-house, or even a kind of hide-out from some kinds of situation there are *some* — not a few — who could genuinely benefit from and become healthier, happier and better received and better contributing members of society if they could find that kind of support.  The numbers of such people in general is growing as the middle class falls apart, poverty swells, the state becomes hollowed out, and desperation overcomes more and more people.   Looming large among the conditions that trigger this avalanche of despair is the manifestly corrupt concentration of wealth and power among a small elite.   The problems Occupy Berkeley faces with regard to the camp are in that sense an ironic reflection of the problems we all face — problems that led to the Occupy movement in the first place.   Criminalizing poverty isn’t a solution, it’s a sign of a civilization collapsing.

    “Shut it down,” especially when spoken or written as if all that were missing from such a “plan” is political will — misses a few points:   It risks being simply a Canutian order.  Poorly executed it risks harming innocents and accumulating liabilities.  Well executed, a shut-down or serious modification of the state of things benefits from maximizing the amount of consensus and cooperation towards such ends within the camp itself — a process that takes (finite but uncertain) time and needs “space” to conduct “in-reach” (like “out-reach” but in a different direction).   Criticizing politicians and civic authorities who engage with the camp to work out the problems in the best way possible is short-sighted, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot thinking.   It may be emotionally satisfying to a few reactionaries but it is ignorant and unfair.

    Scuderi’s and the city’s frankness and cautious restraint are, from my point of view, helpful and appreciated within Occupy Berkeley.   One step at a time.

  • libraterian


  • The camp is illegal, and the campers should be evicted. The City has no legal or moral obligation to waste time “building consensus” with people who are engaging in this pointless and counter-productive behavior.

    Enforcing laws that prevent people from using public parks as private campgrounds aren’t “criminalizing poverty” – they’re restoring the parks to the public at large.

  • Bruce Love

    I did not and am not asserting any “moral obligation” on the part of the city.

    I’m happy to discuss what “criminalizing poverty” means — with anyone who displays english competence, some intelligence, and basic civility in a discussion. 

  • I know what it means, Tom. But thanks for the offer.

    As I already said, evicting the squatters from Civic Park is not criminalizing poverty. It is evicting the squatters from Civic Park.

  • libraterian

    “Criticizing politicians and civic authorities who engage with the camp to work out the problems in the best way possible is short-sighted, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot thinking.   It may be emotionally satisfying to a few reactionaries but it is ignorant and unfair.”

    – This “occupation force” has shot off both it’s feet  and now has no legs to stand on. 

    – Criticizing politicians and civic authorities who enable this farce is called political freedom of expression. 

    – If there is anything “reactionary” (defined as ‘desiring a return to the past'”) happening here, it’s the reflexive way a few alleged progressives satisfy themselves by fronting for these nuisances.  

  • Bruce Love

    He says …. as if to redundantly illustrate my point.

  • Bruce Love

    Perhaps you should start selling bumper stickers.

  • To be fair to Thomas Lord, I definitely desire a return to the past when it comes to this issue.
    I’d love to return to the recent past when Civic Park wasn’t over-run with “protesters” who were trying to take over one of our public parks for their personal use.

  • Is that comment supposed to add to the discussion, Tom?

  • Unfortunately for you and your Occupals, he’s correct. The only issue anyone is talking about Re: Occupy Berkeley is the issue of squatting in public parks.

  • Laura

    B-side editors,

    This comment violates your guidelines, please remove asap.

  • Bruce Love


    [*] Briefly, the criminalization of poverty is in my view the systemic
    construction of conditions under which people who find themselves
    sufficiently poor are, for the most part, unable to survive without
    breaking the law and are in fact often harmfully engaged with the law
    enforcement system as a result.   The particular laws in question are
    usually not specifically laws against poverty — and
    they seem reasonable in and of themselves.    Civic park regulations
    against sleeping overnight and/or putting up a tent are an example —
    what could be unreasonable about that?   The problem arises when the
    whole is something beyond just the sum of the parts — when there
    pragmatically remains no degrees of freedom for poor people.    Two
    analogies come to mind.  One is a dust-bowl era folk song that Ry Cooder covered  called something like “How can you keep on moving, if migrating must not do?” — it speaks about dust-bowl refugees legally required to continuously “move along” but also to “not migrate”.   The other is an analogy from the philosopher Marilyn Frye about the oppression of women — her “bird cage analogy”.    She compares many individually innocent and reasonable seeming elements of society to individual wires which in and of themselves can’t be accused of oppressing the freedom of a bird but… in their arrangement overall, collectively comprise a bird cage which very much eliminates the bird’s freedom.    The criminalization of poverty is the overall arrangement of laws and social and economic arrangements which individually may seem reasonable but which collectively entrap people as criminals essentially because they poor.


    I’ll be clearer:

    Sharkey tried to draw a dichotomy, asserting that evicting squatters from the park and criminalizing poverty are two separate, distinct things.

    That’s an interesting claim.  That’s potentially a very interesting starting point for a discussion about what “criminalizing poverty” means.  That’s an important question that is central to a lot of the great civic debates of our time.  It would be interesting to discuss.  It would be relevant to the topic of the article.   [*]

    The problem is that there can be no discussion with Sharkey et al. if, no matter what I plainly say, Sharkey or some other of my usual critics will respond as if I had said something very different.   The case of the non-responsive reply about “legal or moral obligation” — as if what I was saying hinged on such things — is illustrative of why I am suspicious.   If that were an unusual disconnect in replies I get from Sharkey, that’d be one thing.  In my experience, it is not. 

    So I initially acknowledged that the question of “criminalizing poverty” is interesting and relevant, while explaining my reluctance to take it up with Sharkey.

    I am happy to discuss something like what “criminalizing poverty” means
    — with anyone who displays english competence, some intelligence, and
    basic civility in a discussion.   I was asking Sharkey to reassure me
    by demonstration that he might be such a person but as you can see, he
    then declined.  Yes, that is curt and does articulate my frustration
    with a few comment makers but … at least I tried to open the door to improved dialogue, rather than trying to censor, Laura.

  • Horse flop, Tom.

    You’re being grossly condescending and you know it.
    Telling people that they should “start selling bumper stickers” when you disagree with their politics is hardly what I would call a sign of someone interested in discussion.

  • Bruce Love

    Well, Sharkey, if the current shelters and services were (or even could be) adequate to the task things would be very different.

    This bit might make a popular bumper sticker, though: “If the poor in Berkeley want to camp in a park, they can go to People’s Park. — The Sharkey”

  • Good one, Tommy. Perhaps you can convince your wife to give you an advance on your allowance so you can get those printed up.

  • Good one, Tommy. You should see if your wife will give you an advance on your allowance so you can get that printed up.

    Note to Moderators: This is no more insulting than Thomas Lord’s suggestion that anyone who doesn’t want to listen to his long-winded opining about the criminalization of poverty is lacking in “English competence, intelligence, and basic civility” or his condescending statement that the political opinions of anyone who disagrees with him are “bumper sticker politics.” If you’re going to allow him to goad other posters like that, then responses like this should also be allowed.

  • For goodness sake The Sharkey and Bruce Lord, take it somewhere else. 

    Your constant bickering on this comment thread is of no interest to anyone. We have better things to do than have to spend time moderating your comments. 

    And while we don’t want to close the thread down because other people may have interesting comments to contribute, we also fear you are putting anyone off coming anywhere near the site. 

    May I respectfully suggest you might like to start your own site where you can discuss all the matters that interest you ad infinitum between yourselves?

  • libraterian

    Tracey, Lance, Frances, read the Fin Man’s and BLT’s exchange again from the following perspective:

    I count 20 regular and semi regular posters on B.side. My guess is there’s another 100+ with several (under 5) posts and (just picking a big number)  say 1000 one time and guest posters. That’s 1120 people or 1.06% of the 112580 the 2010 census says live here. 

    The page view numbers you set advertising rates with must be many 100’s of times higher. I suggest Sharkey’s “voice of reason” versus BLT’s…uh ….whatever, is a great draw. A real money maker. I wouldn’t be so quick to invite them off the premises. 

  • libraterian

    That would be: “He says, redundantly illustrating my point.”

    “…as if to” is redundant.

  • Bruce Love

    Say again?

  • Anonymous

    Get these stupid hippies off my lawn!

  • It is, however, interesting that the Sharkey’s posts have garnered a great many “likes” in this thread.  I do not, at this time, see any for BL’s posts.  Without wishing to contradict you on the “better things to do than […] moderating” point, I’d question the assertion that there’s no interest in what The Sharkey has to say.  I know that it’s the bickering you’re addressing, but if asking them to leave meant that we couldn’t read the Sharkey’s comments, well, that would be a real loss.  

  • libraterian

    The great value of B.side article’s is as catalyst to forum discussion. God could be writing the articles and they’d still just get scanned before we click through to ‘Comments’ (Berkeleyans are quick studies.) Why? Because nothing fascinates Berkeleyans more than ourselves! Connecting the outlying dots in my post above: There is a burgeoning population of Fin Men and Women helping weary BLT’s off the stage. The other Berkeley-centric publication (now web presence) did well enough as long as a decent percentage of those interested in Berkeley politics were sympathetic to the BLT-ish editorial perspective presented there. But now, finally, economics, practicality and basic fairness are influencing social decisions. I suggest B.side continue riding that wave. Sharkey and Bruce aren’t “bickering”, they’re Berkeleyan. And the page views they draw are an asset to all.

  • Laura

    Exactly, B-Side has found it difficult to moderate  Bruce/ Thomas Lord when he crosses the line from pedantic to  bullying ,easier to blame both people than moderate the bullying behaviors. 

    Sure the Fin Man could avoid responding, but really B-Side editors, do you want to lose all the content readers provide and let B-Side  become Thomas’ play ground. He changes identities to keep up with his obsessions.

  • As a politically moderate Berkeley resident (who seems like a far-right Fascist compared to many of the the leftist fruitcakes here in Berkeley) it is extremely frustrating to see our local politics almost completely controlled by a relatively small number of people who drive away anyone who doesn’t goose-step along to their radical left agenda with an unending drone of nonsensical garbage.

    Unfortunately most moderate Berkeley residents have jobs, and many of us commute. We don’t have millions to throw away on an activist political rag masquerading as a local newspaper, time to attend every City Council meeting to refute the people who shout down any new development project, or the time to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week acting as a hyper-verbose concern troll on all local media outlets.

    I would love to see more moderate voices here, and elsewhere in Berkeley politics. I’m sorry if my tit-for-tat exchanges with Thomas Lord are boring for other people to read. But somebody has got to start standing up to these people or nothing in Berkeley will ever improve.

  • Hey Sharkey, I don’t find you boring in the least.  To the contrary, I’m a fan and you have nothing to be sorry about.  And while I mostly try to ignore BL/TL, I’m glad that you occasionally call his b.s. for what it is.   He does occasionally make a good point, but it’s a struggle to see those through all of the endless concern trolling.

  • David

    Yet Berkeley does improve. I agree, as a liberal on the national scale but very much a moderate here in Berkeley, that the city is more a nuisence than a positive. They are saddly fascilitation the occupation of downtown’s park. But the University is the other government, and it seems to try. And the courts by limiting rent control  helped a lot. And developers mostly make a contribution. Crime is lower. Most shopping areas other than Telegraph are okay. It would be nice if the city government was trying to help improve Berkeley, but it does not seem to be necessary in the complexity of who has power. Berkeleyside is making a contribution by letting conversations like this happen. Just a few years ago the left owned the local conversation. Now it is more open. In time the people must say no to another People’s Park breaking another neighborhood.

  • I just walked by twice on my way to and from dinner Downtown.  They’re playing amplified music at volumes audible from the residential area on the other side of MLK.  I called BPD — enough is enough.  I would like that park restored to the marginal uses it enjoyed prior to this stupidity.   Maybe these folks can go camp out at Kriss Worthington’s place — I bet he can get a permit for amplified music too.

    Also, downtown business association:  you need to get the city on top of the panhandling situation downtown.  

  • libraterian

    50 minutes for that?

  • Laura Berkeley City Manager Jim Hynes said there has been a “significant increase in crime and sexual assaults” in the park.”There have been issues in terms of safety
    where the tents are,” Arreguin said. “This is an issue the Occupy people
    are going to have to think about. When is it going to end? When is the
    camping going to end and we move to direct action and advocacy? There
    have been issues about sanitation and crime and the larger it gets, the
    more issues we have.”Debi Mills, an Occupy camper at the park,
    said she was living in her van in Santa Barbara before she came to
    Berkeley. She said the campers want to work with the police, whose
    headquarters are across the street.”There is a level of crime
    here, like attempted rape for example, and we want the police to come
    and pluck this person out of here,” Mills said. “We’re trying to work
    with the police. We just had a meeting with several officers this
    morning.”Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said the department has seen an increase in crime in the park. “There
    has been a slight increase in the last two weeks in battery cases,”
    Kusmiss said. “It’s very likely things are happening, but there also are
    instances of calls for battery and crimes in which the victims and
    witnesses refused to cooperate.”