Berkeley officials early Thursday morning took apart a homeless encampment of tents, solar cells, bikes, and other objects that had been set up outside Old City Hall for about three months. The dismantling took place just a day after the city had issued notices for the campers to depart, and two days after a small fire nearby damaged the historic building.
Berkeley police and city workers arrived in the predawn hours, around 6 a.m., to take down the encampment. After the campers’ stuff was removed, city workers set up temporary fencing around the lawn.
At least one person was arrested at the scene. Nanci Armstrong-Temple, a longtime advocate for the homeless who has been arrested at other encampment clearings, was taken into custody by police. She was cited and released, according to her Twitter feed. She has started tweeting about the encampment dismantling at 5:12 a.m. Berkeleyside has reached out to the Berkeley police for more information.
The First They Came for the Homeless group, which considers itself a protest camp and intentional community, has lived on the lawn for more than three months. Its previous long-term camp at the Berkeley-Oakland border was disbanded by BART, which owned the land. Since the camp move to Old City Hall, other groups have set up camp beside it.
After the Tuesday afternoon fire, which resulted in one arrest, the city ordered the campers to clear out immediately due to safety concerns. There was another small fire in January as well, which was started accidentally by a camper who had lived there before any of the groups moved in and destroyed his lean-to.
On Wednesday, some of the people living at the site said they planned to ignore the city’s orders. They said they resented being penalized for another camper’s behavior.
For First They Came for the Homeless, this morning’s events were a familiar experience. Before the nearly year-long stop at the border, the group was ousted about twelve times from various public spaces around the city. The city has said it disbands the camp when there are health and safety concerns or complaints.
First They Came for the Homeless is involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the city over its actions during previous evictions.