Public Comment

New: Notes from Behind the Scenes at Berkeley P.O. Protest Bust

By Ted Friedman
Monday September 02, 2013 - 02:19:00 PM

When the final stamp was cancelled on the Save Our Berkeley Post Office protest, Wednesday, the cameras were not rolling even though major media trucks regularly rolled in.

Media was caught off-guard, and so were the protesters. Only six were in camp when their camp stamp was canceled. 

A protest leader, Jim Squatter, told me protesters were attending a Trayvon Martin memorial and an event honoring Martin Luther King's 1963 civil rights march to Washington, D.C. 

Free-lance photographers like me and David Yee, a retired Oakland Tribune press photographer, who had been vying for a bust-shot were also fooled by the raid. We both logged hours of surveillance, hoping for the "money shot." I went to the camp, Wednesday, the afternoon of the 7:30 p.m. bust to look for tell-tale police activity. 

"Amplify," a camp leader and I cased police headquarters, but were lulled into complacency. Amplify told me he didn't want to get busted, but he was--prior to the raid on the camp. There was another bust, as well. Police say these two busts were not part of the raid. 

BPD Police Chief Michael K. Meehan told me Thursday he was proud of the raid that cleared the camp in ten minutes, without incident or arrest. 

A seeming discrepancy between (police) "no arrests" and two arrests, according to protestors, can be explained by police distinguishing between just-before-the-raid, shortly after 7 p.m. and the raid itself--20-30 minutes later. 

Prior to the raid, protester Larry Silver saw "twenty-five Berkeley cops silhouetted against the sky making their way across Civic Center Park from police headquarters, headed for the camp. Two large dumpster trucks pulled up alongside the camp. The cops started immediately scooping up tents and throwing everything in the dumpsters. There was no resistance. The camp was cleared in ten minutes." 

Earlier in the month, seventy-five protestors, led by Jim Squatter and David Welsh, a retired postal worker, took off from the post office on a three-mile march ending in the shadow of Cal's Campanile. [photo-essay of that event--] 

Protestors formed outside UPS and Fed-Ex (and inside, too) to hear fiery speeches by Squatter and Welsh condemning UPS and Fed-Ex, and then up Hearst and onto campus, passing the canceled U.C. president's mansion, a narrow bridge and on to the Richard Blum Center. 

Basking in the glow of this success, a group within the Save the P.O. faction sponsored "proposals," over the next several weeks, to take its winnings and depart. 

According to one such proposal authored by Welsh (he denies authorship), "…the encampment has won broad support in the community, with non-stop favorable media coverage, daily dinners and cultural events at the post office and two large rallies on the post office steps." 

But like the constabulary in Pirates of Penzance, off to fight the foe, they couldn't break away. Even a Gilbert and Sullivan chorus couldn't have budged them. Finally, the Save the P.O. contingent voted once more (19-11) to leave. Save P.O. had been welcoming to its scruffy tent-city from the start and was reluctant to signal a rift. 

Moni Law of the Save Berkeley P.O. steering committee told me there was no divisiveness between the protest's two communities, one a seemingly moderate group of grey-hairs, and its younger disheveled wing. 

Welsh and Squatter were both camping overnight with the young protestors. 

But only days before the bust, voices hostile to the encampment were raised at a protest meeting on the P.O. steps. These complaints anticipated the city manager's accusations of the encampment's vandalism, various assaults, and being a threat to public safety. 

Squatter countered that protestors' alleged crimes were no more than usual for the neighborhood. 

Here is a list of P.O. protesters" causes--based on posted camp slogans: 

"Capitalism is a Pyramid Scheme." 

"Occupy Wall Street." 

"Goldman Sachs" [sucks?] 

"Monsanto" [sucks?] 

"Corporate Personhood" [sucks?] 

"the Monetary System" [sucks] 

"the Military System" [sucks?] 

"Health Care" [sucks?] 

"Strike Debt" 

"Chevron" [sucks?] 

"Justice for Families" 

"Every 28 hours a black person is killed in the USA by cops." 

"Trayvon Martin." 

"Dignity for Death" 

"Occupied Since 1625" [Indians] 


"Support Bart Workers" 

"Strike the Prisons" 

"Artists Resisting" 

"Richard Blum" [sucks?] 

"Privatization" [sucks?] 


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