Accounts clash on reason for post office camp departure

Police spoke with people outside the downtown Berkeley Post Office on Monday evening. Photo: Ted Friedman

Police spoke with people outside the downtown Berkeley Post Office on Monday evening. Photo: Ted Friedman

The protesters at the downtown Berkeley Post Office who had been camping on site to fight the proposed sale of the building have left the area, but the official account from police has been disputed by some involved activists.

A statement posted on the Berkeley Post Office Defense website said its encampment was “raided” at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday “by a combination of Postal Police and Berkeley PD (directly subverting the will of the citizens of Berkeley).” According to the statement, a rally was planned for the morning, and a general assembly meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Twitter user abpaine said this photograph shows "Police taking down post office encampment in downtown" on Wednesday night. Photo:  abpaine

Twitter user abpaine said this photograph shows “Police taking down post office encampment in downtown” on Wednesday night. Photo: abpaine

According to a post by a community member on the group’s Facebook page, “The details are the occupants were told they would be arrested after they received notice of trespass…. So most of them vacated the site yesterday, while 4 remained.”

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said Thursday afternoon that local officers have been working with U.S. Postal Service police “handing out warning fliers” to let activists know they could be arrested for trespassing on the property if they refused to leave.

She said “they decided to leave on their own” Wednesday night.

Coats said via email at about 4:15 p.m. Thursday that “It is my understanding the few people that were there last night left on their own. BPD went and collected what appeared to be abandoned property. Anyone that was there was left alone along with any property that was being claimed. The property that was collected has been booked for safekeeping. There were no arrests associated with the clearing of the property.”

No further information was available from police.

Activists tell a different story

Said Twitter user Strike Debt Bay Area: "The Berkeley Post Office Camp has been raided. BPD execute the orders of 1% Privatizers." Photo: Strike Debt Bay Area

Said Twitter user Strike Debt Bay Area: “The Berkeley Post Office Camp has been raided. BPD execute the orders of 1% Privatizers.” Photo: Strike Debt Bay Area

Some activists involved with the post office protest said the Berkeley Police Department is not telling the whole story. They said authorities came in while many of the protesters were attending another event in Oakland, and made arrests and confiscated property.

A poster on the Save the Berkeley Post Office Facebook page wrote that she went by the post office at 11:40 a.m. Thursday to check her mail, “and I saw that the US Postal Police are all over the place and there were pressure hoses, and the tents and tables of the Save the Post Office encampment are gone.”

A 1:10 p.m. Thursday, someone using the “Berkeley Post Office Defense” handle posted on Indybay that, starting Wednesday night at 7, “Berkeley Police removed the tents of the Berkeley Post Office camp and threw them into large trucks. The camp was on its 33rd day of a direct defense in opposition to the sale of the Post Office. People’s belongings were confiscated without warning by about 20 cops and the signs were taken down. There were two arrests before the raid began.”

According to a post on Facebook by Mindy Stone on Wednesday night, “tonight was extremely sad. early in the day Sandy was hosting the info table at the Save the Berkeley Post Office Occupation…today was day 30! later we went to a Trayvon Martin rally in Oakland and while we had a great time participating in the event we had no idea the Berkeley cops were raiding our encampment and throwing all our belongings in the city dump truck. What scums the US Postal Service thugs and the Berkeley PD are! Last night we were freaked thinking they were going to raid w/ cops swarming all night…they raided during business hours at 7 p.m. Some of our homeless folks holding things down lost their belongings too. Very upsetting.”

JP Massar wrote on Twitter that the tents and possessions of all the campers were “confiscated” and another Twitter user, mary mad, wrote also that “arrests were made.”

Wrote Twitter user abpaine, “The officials were tearing the place down. Throwing stuff in open bed truck.” She also noted that she “Saw few people there beyond police. Group of police surrounded someone in wheelchair. Know no more.”

City manager memo outlines safety concerns

Following an Aug. 23 letter from Berkeley Postmaster Ray Davis, asking Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan for help dealing with the encampment at the post office, Berkeley city manager Christine Daniel sent a memo, dated Aug. 26, to the Berkeley City Council outlining a range of safety problems that had allegedly taken place on or near the site since Aug. 10.

This treehouse and other property were cleared from Berkeley's downtown post office this week. Photo: Kester Allen

A treehouse and other property were cleared from Berkeley’s downtown post office between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Photo: Kester Allen

Daniel wrote that “criminal activity has continued and escalated” since the beginning of the occupation, noting a “physical assault, several arrests for weapons possession and a serious dog bite.” She said local businesses had reported problems with harassment, and that Berkeley High classes were scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Alleged criminal activities or public safety issues on site included a stabbing Aug. 15; a woman masturbating at the post office Aug. 16; a juvenile found with an 8.5-inch concealed knife Aug. 19; and a man who brandished a 17-inch billy club at a nearby business Aug. 21.

Also on Aug. 21, a member of the camp got into an altercation with a passer-by; the passer-by’s dog allegedly bit off a large section of the camper’s hand, according to the memo. He was taken to the hospital for treatment.

On Aug. 25, someone causing a disturbance in front of the post office at 8:15 a.m. reportedly refused to leave the area when asked. Four assailants punched and dragged the victim across the street to Berkeley High; one of them slammed the victim’s head into the sidewalk. The victim suffered lacerations to his face and head and was taken to the hospital for treatment. Police contacted two people inside a large tent at Allston and Milvia. One was arrested on a no-bail parole warrant for failing to register as a sex offender. The memo said a warrant is being sought for the second man, who is on county probation for assault with a deadly weapon.

“The City encourages the community to exercise their First Amendment rights,” wrote Daniel. “However, activities must be conducted in [a] manner that ensures everyone is safe.”

Postal inspector says safety is the main concern

U.S. Postal Service Police spokesman inspector Jeff Fitch said officers from his organization and the Berkeley Police have been meeting individually with protesters to let them know it was time to “pack it up and move it along.” Monday night, he said, police handed out formal notices citing the federal and state penal code violations that would make the activists subject to arrest.

From the beginning of the occupation, about a month ago, Fitch said safety has been his agency’s main concern. Recently, he said, campers had been using trash cans inside the post office as a restroom, and that other people had climbed up onto the roof, with pet dogs and alcohol, and had begun camping there. Fitch said activities like that were of great concern as far as the safety of postal service employees, customers and the campers themselves.

Monday, he said, Postal Service and Berkeley police again let the campers know they were subject to arrest if they stayed on site. But he added that he wasn’t sure what prompted the group to leave Wednesday evening. He said the Berkeley Police Department would have more information on what had transpired.

Fitch said Postal Service officers will remain on scene to maintain security and continue to monitor the situation.

This developing story was updated throughout the afternoon as more information became available.

Related: 
Postal Commission rejects Berkeley mayor’s appeal (08.28.13)
Protester stabbed in thigh at Berkeley Post Office camp (08.16.13)
Feds agree to hear mayor’s plea to halt post office sale (08.12.13)
U.S. Post Office erects fence at Berkeley’s Elmwood site (08.09.13)
Berkeley post office protesters decline to move (08.06.13)
Protesters told to leave steps of Berkeley post office (08.03.13)
Protesters stage a sleep-in to save the Berkeley post office (07.29.13)
Locals, city fight on to stop sale of post office (07.19.13)
Berkeley’s political firmament rallies for post office (05.03.13)
Post Office to sell its downtown Berkeley building (04.22.13)
Developer eyes Berkeley’s historic post office (08.01.12)
Chances are slim of saving Berkeley post office (07.23.12)

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • emraguso

    I saw Thomas Lord’s post about your comment at 3:22pm [https://twitter.com/berkeleyside/status/373209121933119488], thanked him for it, updated my story and then got in touch with you. This story was developing throughout at the day as more information, including reflections like yours, became available. Your account sounded credible so I included it and then reached out to you to learn more.

  • Mbfarrel

    That’s all she’s got.

  • Guest

    No, people don’t “…understand that this action to save the Berkeley Post office is for the people of Berkeley”. A lot of people understand that this action is to gratify the feelings of a small group of highly irresponsible individuals, and has very little if anything to do with saving the Berkeley Post Office. You have created a focus of lawless, irresponsible, unsanitary, and violent behavior, in the name of…you can’t coherently explain what. There has been plenty of sensible discussion about how the P.O. building can be preserved, but none of it has come from you. We love the building, but if it doesn’t work as a P.O. anymore then it can be used in some other way; the city has tremendous power to ensure that the new use is appropriate.

  • Mbfarrel

    The lead photo is a perfect example of the BPD’s viciousness

  • PragmaticProgressive

    will you clarify? You invited questions for follow-up with BPD….

  • guest

    I very much doubt you are

  • YMCA

    an elderly man with one leg was attacked by a group of activists and taken across the street to Berkeley High School.. on Sunday August 25th, 2013

  • SHATTUCK HOTEL

    upset children that never were given the proper attention…. now they are radical undisciplined adults….. the cycle continues… young people are looking for role models, and these adults are just as confused as the children at the occupy… LET’S SAVE THE CHILDREN then we can save the POST OFFICE…….

  • sue

    So, your “action” to save the BPO is for the people of Berkeley? I’m a people of Berkeley and I do not care for your “actions”. THanks anyway.

  • emraguso

    I can ask.

  • The_Sharkey

    Is that why you’ve let him start commenting on the site again?

  • Guest

    In any generation there will always be some small group of malcontent losers who feel they deserve more than they’re given and don’t want to have to work for it.

  • JP

    On the evening of August 28th, many Berkeley Post Office camp
    residents and supporters were in Oakland celebrating the 50th
    anniversary of the March on Washington and protesting against the
    murders of Trayvon Martin, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant and many others
    by police and police surrogates. The Berkeley Police Department saw
    fit to use this opportunity to raid the encampment and “confiscate
    abandoned property” that in fact they knew very well belonged to
    protesters, leaving homeless Berkeley citizens without bedding and
    posessions for the night.

    Using as a blank check a report released earlier in the week by the
    City Manager detailing incidents in and around the camp – some of
    which took place blocks away from the Post Office, some of which
    involved camp participants as victims, some of which had nothing to do
    with the encampment at all, and filled with lies, half-truths and
    distortions – some twenty BPD officers swept through the camp
    Wednesday evening, breaking up a working protest encampment which had
    provided food, mutual support, movies, study groups, resources and
    information outreach for over 30 days.

    Just a day before, Berkeley’s Mayor Bates was quoted as saying
    “They’re a bunch of double-dealing sons of bitches.” He was not
    talking about campers, but about those in the Post Office and the
    Postal Regulatory Commission responsible for dismissing his appeal of
    the decision to sell the Berkeley Post Office! That the Mayor would
    then look the other way while allowing the First and Fourth Amendment
    rights of protesters – who could be the only thing standing in the way
    of the sale besides a very costly, very uncertain, lawsuit – to be
    trampled on by BPD is an encapsulation of just how far down the road
    to a police state controlled by the one percent we have come.

    Berkeley citizens! This is not just a fight about a single building
    and a few jobs! It is a fight for the presevation of half a million
    living wage public Postal Service jobs; jobs the privatizers would
    like to see become McJobs or be eliminated entirely. It is a fight for
    the Public Commons: those who would privatize the Post Office are
    scheming to privatize roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, medical care
    and your Social Security. If we are not willing to defend the notion
    of a public Post Office as guaranteed by our Constitution what will be
    giving up next?

    Berkeley has a choice. It can defend the democratic will of its own
    people – as expressed vociferously in public forums and by its City
    Council and its elected representatives – by any and all means
    necessary, or it can meekly accede to a bureaucratic process whose end
    is now a foregone conclusion.

    – The Berkeley Post Office Defenders.

  • emraguso

    I’m not aware of any recent comments of his on Berkeleyside. I saw his comments elsewhere.

  • guest

    Regardless of its sound ideological foundations your protest has made poverty and madness uncomfortably visible.

  • The_Sharkey

    If you want to sit out front and protest during the day, go right ahead. That’s not what people are upset about.

    All that’s being objected to is using the protest as a lame excuse to set up yet another campground for the dregs of the Occupy Oakland crowd.

  • The_Sharkey

    Also,

    Berkeley has a choice. It can defend the democratic will of its own people – as expressed vociferously in public forums and by its City Council and its elected representatives – by any and all means necessary, or it can meekly accede to a bureaucratic process whose end is now a foregone conclusion.

    As far as I can tell, the majority really doesn’t give a damn about this issue one way or the other. A small crowd gettin’ loud at a city council meeting doesn’t necessarily reflect the will of the majority.

  • Woolsey

    Well, I don’t think privatization is the issue at hand, but that’s fine with me, too. I stupidly shipped myself several boxes of books using the US Postal Service and over a year later I get an envelope with one of my shipping labels in it and a note to the effect that the contents appear to be lost. Doesn’t seem to happen with UPS or FedEx. So sure, privatize them (and sell off the Post Office, too.) Why keep a huge building for the USPS that no one needs? The world has moved on – might as well keep a stable downtown for horses and buggies.

  • Guest

    “On the evening of August 28th, many Berkeley Post Office camp
    residents and supporters were in Oakland celebrating the 50th
    anniversary of the March on Washington and protesting against the
    murders of Trayvon Martin, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant and many others
    by police and police surrogates.” No protests for Alaysha Carradine, 8 years old or Drew Jackson, 16 months old though huh? What about David Manson Jr, Isaac Johnson, Olajuwon Clayborn, Tyler Frank Jamison, Ken Harbin, or Tyronta Mickens all 17 years of age, all have died on the streets of Oakland this year. Ya your right “we are all Drew” just doesn’t have the same effect when we’re feigning outrage on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Julie

    I used to belong to a forum, where one person dominated most of the stories and posts. Finally it was decided ( and it was part in jest) that this person take one day off a week and not post. I believe we called it something like “Nedless Tuesdays”. Might we do the same thing with the shark who swims in these muddy waters? Just a thought.. maybe Sharkless Mondays. Now please don’t all get into an uproar about this.. it’s a friendly post! :-)

  • DisGuested

    And how about Christopher Lane and Delbert Belton? Not exactly a proliferation of “vigils” or media histrionics for those two recent casualties.

  • Guest

    Just looking through the comments here, I don’t see anyone dominating them. Why focus on the Sharkey? He is by no means the most vociferous poster here. Judging by your other posts, you don’t agree with him. So perhaps you can’t think of a good riposte to his comments, and just want to suppress his speech?

  • Julie

    I wouldn’t dream of suppressing an anonymous poster by the name of Sharkey. I do know many ( including myself) who do get tired of his predictable posts and don’t bother to post here. I doubt I’ll be posting much in the future. Though I disagree with most of his posts, I rarely respond to him/her/it. I usually respond to posters who seem to have thought things through, and are being honest with their posts– or posts where I have info that differs. I’m not sure if Berkelyside has asked anyone else who posted a lot not to post so much.. could the editors– Lance, or Francis answer that question. Thanks.

  • The_Sharkey

    He’s definitely back.
    His comments on this article were particularly obvious:

    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/08/16/enrollment-surge-necessitates-three-new-kindergartens/

  • PragmaticProgressive

    You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

    Sharkey is entirely honest with his/her posts and is certainly thoughtful. S/he is just faster than you are and gasp doesn’t agree with you.

    You’re being quite disingenuous when you write that you “wouldn’t dream of suppressing” Sharkey. That’s exactly what you’re trying to do. Own it, Julie!

    You see, this is the truth about the free expression of ideas: it extends to everyone, even those people who disagree with you. It *sounds* like you and your friends would prefer Berkeleyside be some kind of echo chamber for your own thoughts. I hope you see how messed up that is — you’re for freedom of speech except when people don’t meet your entirely arbitrary criteria.

    Lastly, if Sharkey’s posts are “predictable” and you, Julie, “disagree with most of [them],” then I guess that means you’re pretty predictable too. At least Sharkey is entertaining.

  • Anonymous

    Wrong color.

  • guest

    “It *sounds* like you and your friends would prefer Berkeleyside be some kind of echo chamber for your own thoughts.”

    No it doesn’t.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Tom, go away.

  • Julie

    I’m waiting… to see if Berkeleyside has asked anyone else not to post so much but I haven’t received an answer as of yet.

  • I’m jes’ sayin’

    Hi mindy:

    If you are the press liaison for your group, I suggest that you resign immediately in the interest of the group. If, as you are convinced, BPD has BSide in its pocket, I’m pretty sure they did not accomplish that feat by ABUSING BSIDE REPORTERS.

  • Captain Obvious

    Frequent posters drive debate. Debate drives page views. Page views drive ads. Ads drive berkeleyside.

  • Name

    you clearly do not live in berkeley.

    poverty and madness is always visible in downtown.

  • Bill N

    “directly subverting the will of the citizens of Berkeley” is obviously a matter of opinion and not one held by many if not most of the citizens of Berkeley.

  • Guest
  • Guest

    You begin to sound like “Bruce Love”. I think you are, alas for you. If you could argue like The Sharkey, you wouldn’t have been banned. But you can’t: your style is peculiar combination of mendacity, dull persistence, and insolence that reliably deadens discussion. Back to your cave!

  • The_Sharkey

    The solution to speech you don’t like is more speech.

    If you have something to say, say it.

    If you don’t have anything to say but just don’t like what’s being said, well, too bad.

  • Julie

    Alas, thanks for the compliment, but I am not Bruce Love. I am registered poster, always use the same name and always post from my home. So, “Guest” thanks for the laugh…

  • emraguso

    They said it’s not always one way or the other, but that it could be used to refer to homeless people who have lived in Berkeley for a long time.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Thanks

  • Julie

    Thank you for the links, Guest. I am honored to think you and perhaps a few others thought I was Bruce Love– a journalist of high quality– and people like him who don’t bother ( not because they’ve banned) do not care to post on this blog because of many posts are not thoughtful, they are just plain mean. I’m still smiling that you and I believe a few others thought I was Mr. Lord.

    I am quoting from one of the links you provided:
    “One of Berkeleyside’s missions, and one of its most interesting components, is the dialogue that takes place in its comments about stories and city issues. Passionate, reasonable responses are fascinating to read, and heighten the sense of Berkeley as an involved and caring community.

    In recent months, however, the Berkeleyside editors — and many of our readers — have noticed that comments have disintegrated into a place where everyone complains. There is distrust of everything, from the motives of reporters, city officials, business owners, and ordinary citizens. That’s hard enough to read. What is really unfortunate and not acceptable are the personal attacks and putdowns that are popping up with increasing frequency.

    Here are just some of the comments made on our story on the recently passed 2012-2013 city budget (and there are plenty of others that we don’t want to repeat):

    Crawl back to your Elmwood Ct million dollar home and contemplate your arrogance.

    We are highly disinterested in what you have to say or share(name removed.) You are lucky I am being polite.

    keep your characterizations to yourself — you are pathetic”

    Yet it still continues– and it does I believe, because those are the readers and commenters of Berkeleyside. Even now I’ve been told “back to my cave”

    Thanks for giving me the information I needed. This was fun, indeed.

  • The_Sharkey

    Do journalists of high quality lie about who they are in comments sections of local news sites in order to bolster their arguments? Hmmm…

    Perhaps you would get friendlier responses if you tried posting your thoughts and opinions on the issues at hand rather than just trying to silence people who you disagree with. Just a thought.

  • Julie
  • Guest

    Or not. It isn’t reporting, that’s for sure. Advocacy perhaps? At least your citing it explains some things about your point of view. Did this person tell the truth about “the eviction of the post office camp”? And if she didn’t? You wouldn’t have to confront her and tell her that she lied – because that web site doesn’t allow comments! How convenient.

  • Julie

    Giggle. It’s not a website, it’s a real newspaper. You can ( but not under a “guest name”), write what you think is wrong with her story and submit it to the planet. This author has written for several newspapers. I suppose it would be inconvenient for you to use your real name. Oh, my.

  • guest

    The Berkeley Daily Planet hasn’t been paper for several years.