Several large pieces of construction equipment were removed from People’s Park on Monday morning, where they had been left since construction was paused in early August, according to Kyle Gibson, director of communications for campus capital strategies.
Of the five pieces of equipment initially left at the park, only one final excavator that belongs to a different rental company remains, and it is set to be removed soon. However, Gibson noted that an official date for the removal has not been set.
“The reason for recovering the rented heavy construction equipment now is so the owner can now move forward on resolving the insurance claim for their equipment, which is likely damaged beyond repair,” Gibson said in an email.
Gibson said all four pieces were removed “without incident.”
Park activist Lisa Teague said the university was concerned about potential protests erupting during the equipment removal process.
“There had been concerns initially that they were going to have to block up the streets with lots of cops to prevent an uprising and we’re like, ‘No, we really want our basketball court back,’ ” Teague said. “We will get out there and cheer — we’re not gonna yell at you.”
Once the equipment was removed from the basketball court, park activists quickly got to work cleaning up debris and power washing the pavement, according to People’s Park activist Naya Rose. Rose noted that Rico Marisol spearheaded a community-wide effort to install the People’s Park 24-hour Warming Center for residents of the park, which was maintained with the help of more than 100 people amidst the record breaking storms rocking the state.
Rose said for many park residents and activists, the equipment’s removal was long awaited. She added that the basketball court is a “culturally important” space for the People’s Park community, and she hopes to return the space to its regular function soon.
“One thing I want to share is that there was such a sense of elation,” Rose said. “When those machines were gone, it just felt like the occupation was ending, and now we want the attack on our community to stop, and we want services restored.”
The removal of the equipment comes days before a state appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether campus can continue with its plans to build student housing on the historic site. However, Gibson said the case is independent from the decision to remove the construction equipment from the park site.
Attorneys defending the park have notified their clients it will take at least another 60 to 90 days before a final decision is released regarding campus’s permission to proceed with its building plans, according to Teague.
“We’re in this sort of legal limbo,” Teague said.
A previous version of this article incorrectly implied Naya Rose personally set up warming tents. In fact, the People’s Park 24-hour Warming Center was set up by a community-wide effort spearheaded by Rico Marisol and maintained with the help of over 100 people.