The sudden attack by the city on the four week long camp-out to save the Berkeley Post Office was a sad ending to a spirited and peaceful action that was in the interest of the community. With people staffing a literature table and gathering petitions, urging folks to write letters in addition to organizing marches and concerts, the campers did an impressive job informing and educating the public about the issues involved. And they inspired, and were inspired by the protests at the many other post offices around the country facing the same threat.
After weeks of tacit support from city officials and non interference by the Berkeley police, statements appeared in the newspapers of the city manager's concern about 'violence and criminal activity' in the camp. It is unfortunate that the press published the official statements but made no effort to talk to the campers. Many of the stories that appeared in the papers were gross distortions if not outright lies.
Criminal activity? It is all over Berkeley as anyone can see from the list of murders and shooting and mayhem described weekly on the police log in the Berkeley Voice. There was a crime reported at the camp but it was false. There was an attack, it happened on the the street, and neither the attacker nor the victim were campers.
A charge that there were weapons, turned out to be a 'club' that could have been a walking stick and a knife that was a probably a bread knife left by one of the food providers. And the charge that people were urinating or defecating in the garbage cans in the post office is a bit hard to believe. As a matter of fact the campers were meticulous in keeping the camp area cleaned up.
The most egregious lie put out by the press was that the campers decided to pull out. The campers did not choose to end the camp-out! Had it been their decision they certainly would have taken their tents and equipment and their personal possessions. They had gone Wednesday evening to Oakland to participate in a Trayvon Martin related action fully expecting to return. The police used the opportunity to break up the camp. Some of the campers' possessions were never returned .
The campers made an effort to get the truth to the public at a press conference and concert on Saturday but there was little evidence of news media presence. And although the appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission was denied the battle is not lost. The people who camped and those who supported the camp are not ready to give up and they want the community and the politicians to know it.