BERKELEY — Former occupants of the protest site in front of Berkeley’s Old City Hall dubbed “Liberty City” vowed Saturday not be cowed following their eviction the day before by Berkeley police.
“We’re going to keep coming — we’re American citizens,” said Mike Zint, the organizer of what he described as the occupation of the Old City Hall and what Berkeley authorities considered an illegal encampment.
Zint was in his tent on federal property in front of Berkeley’s main post office on Saturday, where he and a group of associates have kept up a presence since last year. He said the previous day’s action by Berkeley police, during which he and two others were cited for lodging without consent, was itself illegal.
“They labeled us an encampment — we’re not,” he had said Thursday. “We’re petitioning our government for redress of grievances and for equal rights and equal protection under the law.
“We’re demanding to be able to take care of ourselves.”
The grievances, Zint said, are primarily the main provisions of a November ordinance governing conduct on sidewalks he and others believe unfairly target the homeless. They include prohibitions of urination and defecation in public spaces, restrictions on placing personal belongings on public sidewalks, and a prohibition on lying down inside planter beds or inside planter walls.
Zint said that his group had already retaken city hall by “popping up an empty symbolic speech tent” on Saturday night.
“Banners are going up and signs are being made,” Zint said. “Tonight, these homeless are without the shelter thanks to the city’s unconstitutional action of removing our occupation.
“We have never left, he said. “This is Day 20.”
And sometime soon, he said, the group plans to set up a Christmas Village/Nativity scene in front of the Berkeley Police Department.
Staff writer Joyce Tsai contributed to this report.
Note from Mike Zint:
The symbolic speech tent is drying. We go back soon. No occupied tents, just sleeping bags. 40% chance of rain means the formerly sheltered protesters will get wet.
Berkeley police responded Thursday to a report of a stabbing at Old City Hall.
At about 11:26 a.m., Berkeley police responded to a report of a fight and stabbing in front of Old City Hall, where a homeless encampment has been set up in response to recently passed city ordinances that restrict where homeless individuals can sleep, among other behaviors.
According to a post on the Facebook page “First They Came for the Homeless” — where a self-advocacy group for the homeless by the same name has been recording events allegedly occurring at the encampment — one of the protesters was stabbed in the leg, and the “incident occurred with no warning, and no provocation.”
The suspect arrested was 53-year-old Jerry Ziegler, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats. Ziegler allegedly got into an argument over missing property with the 20-year-old victim, Coats said in an email. The situation escalated into a physical altercation between the two, during which the suspect allegedly stabbed the victim multiple times, causing nonlife-threatening injuries.
The suspect, after fleeing the scene, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and an outstanding warrant. During his arrest, he was also found with stolen property from an unrelated November theft, Coats said in an email.
The victim was taken to a local hospital by Berkeley Fire Department.
Activists protesting new policies that they believe criminalize homelessness set up tents in front of Old City Hall several weeks ago and have maintained residence there since. The ordinances that have spurred protests include restrictions on where homeless individuals can sleep and keep their personal effects.
BPD also posted a fourth eviction notice Thursday, ordering the occupiers’ dispersal from the area. Previous notices were given Nov. 24, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Berkeley residents have rallied several times to protest the policies. Most recently, protesters marched to Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting at Longfellow Middle School.
At the Tuesday rally, homeless senior and activist with First They Came for the Homeless Michael Lee said the encampment represents a “historic occasion because homeless people have come together to create an ‘intentional community.’ ”
Community members expressed outrage on social media over the stabbing and the fourth eviction notice.
Ziegler’s arraignment is scheduled for Monday at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
This explains who we helped apprehend. A definite criminal. The suspect claims it was over stolen property. Can we believe a thief to tell the truth? We know he was paid. We don’t know why?
This should infuriate people. We did right, but are poor, so we don’t count. The lies were expected. Don’t believe the propaganda, please.
December 5, 2015
Here is the stabbing victim. In his own words. He now has to defend his honor because the violent thief who attacked him, accused him of stealing. So, the thief got all the press, and we got discredited, raided, arrested illegally, and had our rights violated in the home of Free Speech.
Today we will be presenting our project at Solutions COP21 at Le grand Palais. Thanks to our friends of Ernergy 2050 we will be hosting a round table about how we try to showcase the citizens’ opinion at the COP21.
On monday we will be @ Le 104 to present OpenCOP21 for “Zone d’Action pour le Climat” an event organized by the amazing Coalition Climat 21 a huge network of associations and actors mobilizing against climate change.
Monday, December 7th from 6 – 9 pm at Global Exchange
2017 Mission Street near the 16th Street BART station
Information, discussion & community! Monday Night Forum!!
Occupy Forum is an opportunity for open and respectful dialogue
on all sides of these critically important issues!
A Report-back on Rise Up October
STOP MASS INCARCERATION NETWORK
With Bruce Neuberger
and the Community Outreach Team
Stop Mass Incarceration Network was initiated in 2011 by Dr. Cornel West and Carl Dix. Stop Mass Incarceration exists to stop the slow genocide of mass incarceration and all its consequences — racial profiling, a legal system that disproportionately impacts Blacks and Latinos, the police murder of our youth, the criminalization of a generation.
Stop Mass Incarceration Networkis determined to bring forth a movement of millions of people from all walks of life in a steadfast resistance to the New Jim Crow and will not stop until mass incarceration and the police murders of Black and other oppressed people stops.
The execution of Mario Woods obviously adds even greater urgency to what is already an emergency situation and one that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly. The goal that Carl Dix and Cornel West set for Rise Up October was to continue and broaden the movement that arose out of Ferguson.
Come to Occupy Forum to hear a report-back onRISE UP OCTOBER in New York other actions by SMIN Bay Area to stop, resist and end the injustice of mass incarceration.
The following speakers will report back on Rise Up October:
Hector is a long time activist who also spent time in prison along the way. He’s originally from Puerto Rico. He’s also a very talented graphic artist. Martha is a teacher who is currently working on her masters degree at SFSU and is focusing her studies around issues related to Latin America and Latinos in this country. Lisa is a recent graduate of SFSU and is planning to go into teaching or nursing. All three were in New York for the events of October 22 – 24. Lisa spent a number of weeks in NYC helping to organize in schools and colleges.
Time will be allotted for Q&A, discussion and announcements.
Donations to Occupy Forum to cover costs are encouraged;
The execution of Mario Woods obviously adds even greater urgency
I appreciate all that you and Occupy do and have done over the years and it was good seeing you as well last night (at the Mario Woods Town Hall Meeting with Police Chief Greg Suhr and the Bayview Community), and I fully understand the feeling of trying to keep up with things going on in our lives — and world! The execution of Mario Woods obviously adds even greater urgency to what is already an emergency situation and one that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly. The goal that Carl Dix and Cornel West set for Rise Up October was to continue and broaden the movement that arose out of Ferguson and I think on many levels it succeeded, aided, of course, by the unrelenting murderous terror of the system itself.
The following people will be reporting back:
Hector is a long time activist who also spent time in prison along the way. He’s originally from Puerto Rico. He’s also a very talented graphic artist.
Martha is a teacher who is currently working on her masters degree at SFSU and is focusing her studies around issues related to Latin America and Latinos in this country.
Lisa is a recent graduate of SFSU and is planning to go into teaching or nursing. All three were in New York for the events of October 22 – 24. Lisa spent a number of weeks there helping to organize in schools and colleges.
Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle. A homeless man, who identifies himself as a street theater artist and goes by the name Ronald Reagan, joins others squatting in front of Old City Hall in Berkeley.
December 4, 2015
A small shantytown has sprouted outside Berkeley’s former City Hall building, where more than a dozen tents billow beneath an ornate, spired facade. Scattered among them are food tables, recycling bins, a small propane stove, and a sign with a clear-cut message: “This is an Occupation, not an encampment.”
What began as a temporary campout to protest the city’s new homeless ordinances has turned into a long-term settlement. City officials say the camp should go, but there are no immediate plans to get rid of it.
“I think, frankly, the encampment should end,” said City Councilman Jesse Arreguin, who has expressed sympathy for the protesters’ message. He was one of three councilmembers who opposed a set of laws the council approved Tuesday, banning people from urinating in public or strewing their luggage all over city sidewalks.
Councilwoman Linda Maio, who proposed the ordinances, said she wants to establish a standard of civility in Berkeley. Arreguin and two other councilmen — Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson — say the laws unfairly target homeless people.
But even as Arreguin agrees with the sentiments of the Occupy group, he has grown frustrated with its presence.
“I think they made a strong statement,” the councilman said. “I think the city is not going to allow them to stay permanently.”
How Berkeley plans to clear out the encampment — now dubbed “Liberty City” — remains vague. Two weeks since its genesis, the camp has spread over the lawn of Old City Hall. Its inhabitants have held concerts in the courtyard and allowed their dogs to roam freely on the street. On Thursday, someone at the camp was stabbed and taken to a hospital, police said. Police arrested a suspect who had argued with the victim over missing items at the camp before the attack.
Residents have begun wondering how much longer they’ll have to tolerate the camp.
One resident, Robin McDonnell, said she no longer feels safe walking home because some of “Liberty City’s” inhabitants are camping in bushes alongside the sidewalk.
Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle. Evelyn Tucker, who occupies one of more than a dozen tents set up on the front lawn, has been living in the camp for the past 12 days.
“I feel the city must at some point show equal concern to the many residents who use this as their main entrance to the downtown,” McDonnell wrote in a letter to the mayor, City Council and the city’s Public Works Department.
City officials distributed four public notices to the squatters, warning them that the camp is illegal. The notices included lists of indoor shelters, shower facilities and churches offering free meals.
No plans to leave
In response, the squatters posted a jeering sign with a fake laminated permit. “We give ourselves permission to be here,” the sign read.
The camp’s organizer, Mike Zint, who was part of the Occupy San Francisco demonstration in 2011, said he has no plans to leave.
“Our message to the mayor is, ‘Piss off, we’re not going anywhere,’” said Zint, 49, sitting in his tent Tuesday morning with a cigarette in one hand.
“‘Liberty City’” is the latest in a spate of occupations that Zint has led, beginning in San Francisco and continuing in Berkeley with an ongoing vigil outside the city’s post office. A strident homeless activist, Zint formed his own grassroots group, First They Came for the Homeless, to brand his demonstrations as part of a larger human rights campaign. The group’s logo is a Jewish Star of David; the phrase “First they came for” derives from a famous poem about Nazi Germany.
Zint frequently posts about “Liberty City” on the group’s Facebook page.
On Nov. 29, he orchestrated the group’s first “general assembly” meeting and handed out copies of its new principles of self-rule.
“Then I explained my dictatorship ends, and I’m the coordinator now,” Zint wrote in a Facebook post describing the meeting. “Chaos ensued, and was resolved in minutes.”
Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle. The homeless have taken over the front lawn outside old City Hall calling their camp, “Liberty City”, as seen on Tues. December 2, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif., to protest the new homeless ordinances which are up for a final vote tonight before the Berkeley City Council.
‘We’re not criminals’
Zint sees “Liberty City” both as a protest and a mini society. He says it has brought structure and a sense of belonging to people who were once hopeless. The inhabitants get regular meals, he pointed out. They have labeled recycling boxes and trash bins. They have a mandatory 11 p.m. quiet hour.
“We’re trying to prove a point,” Zint said. “We’re not criminals.”
It’s long been a tradition for homeless people to commandeer public space in Berkeley, a city that’s famous for welcoming nomads, drifters and social misfits. Some members of the “Liberty City” camp say they came to Berkeley seeking a place where they could live free of societal norms.
Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle. Toby Nixon and Kat, (declined to give her last name) share a cigarette as they join other homeless who have taken over the front lawn outside old City Hall as seen on Tues. December 2, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif., to protest the new homeless ordinances which are up for a final vote tonight before the Berkeley City Council.
“I kind of just wanted to travel on my own spiritual path,” said 18-year-old Frank Christiana, who arrived in September from Massachusetts. Tottering on a skateboard with his new dog — a pot-bellied shepherd mix — in tow, Christiana grinned widely. “I consider myself ‘home-free.’”
But the allure of Berkeley may quickly fade as the city grapples with a mushrooming homeless population and a dearth of services.
In 2013, the council unanimously approved plans for a new emergency shelter downtown, similar to San Francisco’s Navigation Center. The city’s 2009 homeless count showed that 800 people were living on the streets in Berkeley.
Though a new count won’t be released until January, many officials say the problem has gotten worse, and there is still no plan for the shelter to break ground.
Liberty City, Berkeley City Hall Occupation, day 18.
Willow is out of the hospital. Zero stitches required. No info on the girl who paid for the stabbing. Channel 7 was at the police station, but did not come to us. This gives BPD the narrative. They are already lying about us, so please look for any story on the attack.
The occupiers are worried about their new leaf collections and rock collections. BPD will need to itemize everything, including each leaf, identified and described, and each rock, identified and described. Each occupier is going to demand everything be proper. Search warrants will be demanded. If the police grab our property, it will be without our permission and we will arrest them. If they detain anyone, we will consider the detentions illegal, and will arrest the officers for kidnappings. Will these arrests stick? Not likely, but that won’t stop us. We know our rights, and we, their wrongs.
The police dropped of our fourth eviction notice. They refuse to respect our rights. The stabbing earlier is highly suspect. The consensus is a provocateur. The police do this. Now, they will use this as an excuse to raid. The police don’t care about the facts, a lawsuit, the constitution, or anything else but policy. During the raid, we will be arresting Berkeley police officers, as allowed, for various reasons. These arrests will be videotaped, and presented to the District Attorney here in Berkeley, to the state attorney general, the FBI, and the media.
Leave the citizens alone! Spread the word on all email lists and social media please. We the people will not tolerate this criminal police behavior. We will respond.
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