"Sweeping" us like we were Trash in Hypocrisy City (Berkeley)
For the past few months, every other Thursday, CalTrans alongside the Berkeley Police Department and the California Highway Patrol have been pushing out houseless communities out of their encampment space from under the overpass at Gilman Street in Berkeley. Most of these communities are the casualty of being pushed out of the Albany Bulb and having been forced out of Downtown Berkeley (Shattuck Avenue corridor) because of the newly adopted local city ordinances that discriminate and marginalize houseless and poor communities.
Having been houseless myself in one of the wealthiest communities (Bay Area) in the entire nation, I truly understand how it is to feel pushed out without any option nor solution to having the access to housing. One community member told me that he had been living in the encampment for about nearly a month, however he said that every other Thursday, the Berkeley PD, CA State Highway Patrol and CalTrans were showing up at 7:00am with a bullhorn loudspeaker telling everyone that they had five minutes to gather up their belongings and evacuate the area.
He also told me that they have done nothing to offer a real solution to helping people get into housing and that all they do is give them a yellow piece of paper containing a bunch of so-called ‘local resource’ phone numbers. He also said that the listed resources are unable to help them and that they have no other option but to be pushed onto the public sidewalk without anywhere they can safely go.
Another houseless community member told me that they pushed them all onto a public parking space which is the property of the East Bay Parks and Recreation Department, where their police approached them, asking for each of their names and giving them the ‘same’ yellow resource information paper.
Many of the houseless community folks who were staying under the overpass at Gilman Street suspect that the police asked them their names so that if they don’t vacate by the nightly deadline of 10:00pm, that they would be cited for trespassing, which means that they would be given a ticket, fined and if they couldn’t afford to pay the fine nor get to court, then an arrest warrant would be issued and they would eventually arrested for simply being poor and having nowhere to go. Another houseless community member told me that they have literally ‘pushed us out into the water’ right at the edge of the rocks on the bay, as the police forced everyone to corral up into the parking lot like a makeshift FEMA camp.
“The police had no mercy on us, our lives and our personal possessions”, stated ‘Vicky’, as she sat on a small wooden chair with her little dog in the parking lot in the full sun. “We are peaceful people, all we wish for is to live free without being constantly harassed. If we had a dumpster, a decent porta pottie and porta shower like the rich people do in the Berkeley Marina (as she points across the parking lot to the Marina in the distance), we would be able to steward all of this open unused space in peace and respect for the first peoples of this land.” She also mentioned how they were being isolated and that everyone was hungry and tired.
As the East Bay Regional Parks Police were asking people’s names, I asked them what were they going to do for this displaced community and their answer was that they gave them all that yellow paper of resource phone numbers and that everyone had to vacate the parking lot by 10:00pm. I asked them if they understood how these resources work and they said ‘no’, that they didn’t understand how they work and that they did their job by handing everyone that yellow piece of paper.
This is a state of emergency as more poor people are pushed out onto the streets. Most who I spoke to in the parking lot had ‘lived’ inside of apartments as long-time residents in the Bay Area (Oakland and Berkeley) and had been forced out by extreme rent hikes as a direct result of gentrification in the Bay Area. In a time when multiple ‘new devilopments’ are being constructed in the City of Berkeley, it is ‘time’ that Berkeley take accountability to stop passing the baton onto other law enforcement agencies like the East Bay Regional Parks Police and stop pushing their poor/disabiled/houseless communities into the San Francisco Bay and house these communities now.
"When we are unhoused our belongings are no longer considered "belongings" - our bodies and our possessions are criminalized and we are considered trash, said Lisa Tiny Gray-Garcia co-founder of POOR Magazine.
Emergency Press Conference Demanding Liberated Ohlone Land
POOR Magazine poverty and indigenous skolaz held an emergency press conference at the site of the "sweeps" where we tried to get media attention for this violence against unhoused people, demanding the release of liberated Ohlone Land for unhoused people to peacefully dwell on and build our own housing like we have done with the Homefulness project in Deep East Huchuin Ohlone land (Oakland) with Ohlone elders and land liberators from the Sogorea Te Land Trust, the 1st Native Women owned land trust in the nation.
"This is the next wave of militarization on Ohlone land," said Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone leader Corrina Gould, co-founder of the Sogorea Te Land Trust about the Berkeley sweeps. "This is the continuation of disposing of and dehuanizing people that dont' fit into the settler colonialist mindset of what 'home' means. My ancestors, the first people of this land - the Ohlone, were displaced and told our homes were not "good enough" - entire villages burned down and ancestors removed by gun point. What has changed in the last 500 years? There is another way possible. Creating the Sogorea Te Land Trust would offer the dreams to manifest into reality, for poor, displaced IIndigenous and POC to have a safe village to live and surive as human beings."
"Give unhoused people in Berkeley liberated Ohlone land or stop forcing us to move when we have nowhere to go, " concluded Lisa tiny Gray-Garcia.
PNN-TV WeSearch interviews from the press conference: