Statement on Eviction of Homeless Community at Berkeley's Old City Hall

Mike Zint, First They Came For The Homeless
Friday February 09, 2018 - 09:57:00 AM

I am requesting help in getting this published. We got blamed, and raided because the city lied, and the press reported the lie. There has been no effort from the press to voluntarily print the truth, and they do know. So, it's up to us to be the journalists. I'm very disappointed in the local press.

This is intended to stop the lies, and show the truth. This is what happened. Our community had nothing to do with the fire. Our community was not on the landing, or north of the bulletin board. We were on the south side of the bulletin board, and on the south side of the building.

The first fire occurred in early January. Below is a quote from a Berkeleyside article, and link to the article. It was made by a local resident. It is clearly stated this person had nothing to do with us. There was no resulting raid, because the truth was published and known to the community. 

"Neighborhood resident Kim Aronson, who alerted Berkeleyside about the fire, said the man whose home burned moved onto the property several months ago, several weeks prior to the creation of a large homeless protest camp outside Old City Hall. Aronson said the man had lived inside a bush, which he had built out with boxes and a number of other items." 


In this article [quoted below] we see something different. We see a city employee being quoted. This quote puts the blame on us, and groups everyone into the same encampment. This quote, in a news publication, puts everything in motion for removal. The Daily Cal did something similar. 

"We’re not sure how it started, though it looked like some objects from the homeless encampment on the lawn was involved, May said. Some members of the “First They Came for the Homeless” political group and homeless encampment have been living at Old City Hall since November, when they were evicted from their nearly year-long post at the Berkeley-Oakland border. The group has grown to occupy much of the lawn." 


Below is testimony from Paul Blake. Paul is very well known, and respected in Berkeley. He is known to the city government and reporters from many media outlets. His testimony contains some things that show the city lied. BFD arrived 12 minutes late to the scene, but is used as a witness. The witness also had no knowledge of the dynamics on the property, yet again is used as a witness. This type of journalism kills homeless people. It sways opinion based on lies. And once printed, it is almost impossible for the truth to get out. The damage, in this case, will not be undone easily. 

[Quote from Paul Blake:] "I was the very first person who rushed up the Old City Hall stairs. No one else was there other than myself and the individual who claimed responsibility for the flames. Flames were 3-5 ft high. He said it was a candle. He continued down the stairs and rode initially north. I rushed to the fire while calling for a rake to spread the burning material out on the concrete to avoid flames reaching low branches of a tree. While approaching the flames I heard 3 small explosions from fire. At this point a resident from Dare 2 Change Community, an affiliate of FTCFTH, insisted that I stop... and get no closer to the fire. Police and fire arrived on scene with hand extinguishers. I called for any extinguishers on site. FTCFTH brought their site extinguisher to Police and Fire who used it to help extinguish flames. Every BPD officer I personally spoke to clearly stated that fire was NOT in FTCFTH group. Resident was NOT affiliated with FTCFTH. Additionally the remark that FTCFTH possessions or material was involved in this blaze is unsubstantiated and not witnessed by me at all. As I was the very first responder and initially the sole witness to this fire I am prepared to respond to any other witness cynically suggesting that FTCFTH or Dare 2 Change was in ANY way responsible or a contributor to this incident. I have not read Berkeleyside account, however I can state that I have NOT been contacted by Berkeleyside... any other first responder other than myself... was NOT on the scene. No one else was there with me oother than individual who claimed to start the fire. NO ONE other than BPD who knew me had any comments at all. BFD had no questions and in fact arrived a full 12 minutes after I was there. “...implicitly blames FTCFTH for new fire” I do not see it that way... I was there... I was the first one there." 

The day of the fire, there was a meeting. The mayor's quote: 

"Arreguín added that the city would post eviction notices 72 hours in advance and allow encampment residents to attempt to fix their behavioral or health-related issues in order to avoid eviction." 


Today, at 5 am, the police raided our city hall location. They did it with less than 24 hours notice. They displaced over 40 people. Those displaced were seniors, disabled, and addicts fresh into recovery. They removed months of stability. They put some people into a much worse situation. They destroyed recovery progress, and put some addicts in the impossible position of staying clean on the streets. They destroyed a community that was making a difference. First They Came For The Homeless has helped get over 50 people off the streets. With the help of the Dare 2 Change community, we finally had a working solution for getting addicted clean and into our sober community. They graduate from Dare 2 Change community, and enter into the FTCFTH camp as drug and alcohol free. Once in FTCFTH camp, the new people must go through probation, just like any other new resident. Dare 2 Change has graduated 23 people. In the same period of time, the HUB got two housed out of camp. We have used no tax payer dollars. The HUB has around 1.7 million dollars budgeted. When you do the math, we have gotten 50 off the streets. Before the raid, we had around 60 sheltered in tents. Including sheltering those 60, we are also providing stability, storage of gear, security, personal space, privacy, and community. With Dare 2 Change's 23 graduated, that brings us to around 120 people that were not fighting for a mat on the floor. They are no longer in doorways. They are no longer on drugs, wandering around town. We are the homeless. We don't get funded. All we have is an idea on what is needed. We have proven over the last 13 months that this community based solution, with rules and camp consensus policy making, is the best way to save lives, and get people off the streets. The fact that the city would rather spend millions on things that don't work, than listen to the homeless suggests to me the city has no desire to really help. They would rather chase the homeless, or house them, out of town.