Students and activists blocked off Sather Gate on Wednesday to protest against UC Berkeley’s plans to build on People’s Park.
The protesters held a banner stating “Defend People’s Park” across the base of the gate and told passersby to take alternative routes to campus. The blockade began around 7 a.m. and ended around 2:30 p.m.
“The Chancellor’s statement that construction won’t begin until everyone in the park is housed is terrific, but ultimately we don’t want the development to happen at all,” said Lisa Teague, member of People’s Park Committee.
In addition to blockading the gate, protesters handed out flyers and used a megaphone to chant phrases such as, “My neck, my back, the UC is whack” and “Up, up, up with the people! Down, down, down with the UC!”
Independent activists also helped blockade Sather Gate, displaying wooden shields with “Bye Policia,” “Black Lives Matter,” “You can’t denounce looting when you live on looted land” and other slogans painted on them.
According to Teague, about 50 students and activists showed up throughout the protest to blockade the gate.
Students attempting to cross the barrier were told to use paths to the left and right of the gate, but students with disabilities were allowed through, according to protester Amanda Hill.
“Frankly, people are losing their homes, so if you’re frustrated about walking 50 yards down or up, maybe you should be paying more attention to what’s going on in the community around you,” Hill said.
On multiple occasions, students expressing dissent approached the gate and engaged in arguments with the protesters. The activists called on each other to “close the gap” when larger groups approached the gate.
Hill added that although campus officials did not appear to be taking any action against the protesters, they did put up red caution tape in the wooded area to the left of Sather Gate.
However, students continued to hike through the greenery and across Strawberry Creek on the right side of the gate.
Teague, who was once houseless themself, suggested campus look into expanding Berkeley Housing Authority Section 8 vouchers, which aim to provide low-income families with rental subsidies for affordable housing, according to city of Berkeley’s website.
“The park means so much to this community,” Teague said. “Aside from being one of the few remaining green spaces on Southside, it has a 52-year history as an activist organizing space and it has been a sanctuary for the unhoused and vulnerable in Berkeley for many years.”
A campus sophomore participating in the protest, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from campus, suggested that UC Berkeley build student housing on the land on and surrounding the Chancellor’s mansion, the top of Clark Kerr and parking lots across town.
She also called for UC Berkeley to alleviate the student housing issue by stopping overenrollment, and added that she believes UC Berkeley is contributing to displacement and rent increases.
“The park is a bastion of what Berkeley is as a community,” the anonymous protester said. “It’s about coming together against oppressive forces.”