Daily Planet Staff
For nearly three weeks, Rick Young has sat in the Underhill parking lot in protest.
Fewer cars, he declares. More housing, he advocates.
Thursday evening, his message was endorsed in a destructive fashion – but he hopes people heard the message nonetheless.
With dozens of curious people and dozens of supporters looking on, Young took a sledgehammer in his hand and broke the windshield of his newly acquired, got-it-through-a-friend automobile. He then handed the hammer to a friend, and told everyone that they were free to take a swipe at the car, too.
The purpose of the exercise, Young said, was to draw attention to his argument against building a 1,000-space parking garage on the Underhill block, which could house around 1,400 vehicles with attendant parking.
The second-year Boalt Hall student contends that UC Berkeley needs to place more emphasis on constructing student housing and less on building parking garages. That’s why he has camped out in the Underhill lot since April 30, and that’s why he had the car brought to the site Thursday: to make a statement not just for housing but against cars.
For the record, the university notes that its plans for the broadly defined “Underhill Area” include the addition of nearly 900 units of student housing.
Did people really hear the message Young was trying to deliver Thursday? Or will they simply remember that a bunch of people, several of whom could be appropriately described as anarchists, decided to destroy a car?
“If people focus on just the destruction of the car, they’re missing the message,” Young said.
Before taking his first swing, Young delivered a harsh attack on UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl. Young has said he will end his protest as soon as Berdahl agrees to discuss several environment-related issues, a demand the chancellor has been unwilling to meet. So, standing on the rooftop of a car whose windshield displayed a picture of Berdahl with a “I Love Pollution” sticker affixed, Young said that if the new parking garage is built, “it will be the moral equivalent of murder.”
Here’s his line of reasoning: Building the garage will encourage people to drive, and when more people drive, that adds to greenhouse emissions, which can increase the intensity and frequency of storms, which often kill people in Third World nations. QED: the moral equivalent of murder.
The entire incident was observed by UC police, and one officer filmed the episode from Haste Street looking down on the parking lot. A fellow officer said her role was simply to file an incident report with her supervisors, who would decide if any action would be taken against anyone involved in the incident.
Young said he doesn’t believe any crime was committed.
“I’ve only been in law school for two years now, but I think it’s legal for me to destroy my own property,” he said while watching others do the job for him.