City officials disbanded a homeless encampment near Old City Hall on Friday morning, after a series of similar incidents in recent months.
At 5:15 a.m. Berkeley Police Department officers told the camp of about 20 people to move, according to Guy “Mike” Lee, former mayoral candidate and camp resident. City staff had previously told the residents that their encampment violated Berkeley municipal code.
“Unfortunately, encampments often have problematic behavior or attract it,” City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley wrote in a memo to Berkeley City Council.
Williams-Ridley added in the memo that members of the camp had repeatedly been seen writing pro-suicide graffiti — including messages that read “Suicide is a-okay” and “Life is overrated” — and that feces had been smeared on Old City Hall’s doors and walkways.
Lee alleged that police assaulted him and that the city’s actions contradicted newly-inaugurated mayor Jesse Arreguin’s promise that the homeless would be “protected from police action.”
BPD’s Lt. Alyson Hart said she had not heard about any assault.
“Our conduct has been spotless,” Lee said. “Everything the city has asked us to do we have gone above and beyond. Any problems that came to my attention, we solved them as an organization.”
City staff removed garbage, food and other debris, according to the memo. Lee alleged that officials had taken about $2,000 worth of property.
Adam Bredenburg, who was living at the encampment, said it’s possible to reclaim some of the confiscated belongings, but that members can expect to “get back maybe 20 percent of what (city officials) took.” Bredenburg alleged that those dismantling the camp took tents, clothes, food and medical supplies.
Local homeless advocate Barbara Brust said she received a call from the campers during the incident and arrived in her vehicle to try to assist the campers by moving their belongings, but alleged that officials had blocked off the streets before waking the campers. Brust said she was unable to reach the campers.
“What we really want right now is a sanctioned campground,” Bredenburg said. “That’ll help people get stability and get back on their feet.”