Longtime political activist Ralph Nader spoke Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration at the downtown Berkeley post office on Allston Way in support of the on-going fight to stop the U.S. Postal Service from selling the 1914 building.
“This is not just a matter of stamps or delivery on Saturdays, important as that is,” Nader said to the crowd. “This is a fundamental institution that binds the country together.”
Read past coverage of the battle over the downtown Berkeley post office.
Nader spoke for almost 40 minutes and touched on U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli/Palestine conflict and U.S. defense spending.
“If anybody here wants to come up with a theory that preserving our post office is essential to our national defense and security, you’ve won,” Nader quipped. “That’s where the money goes.”
He will also be speaking in Berkeley on Wednesday night. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.)
The rally was one of many that have taken place since the U.S. Postal Service announced last April that it would be relocating the downtown Berkeley post office and selling the historic Renaissance Revival building.
Around 75 people showed up to see Nader speak, bearing signs and T-shirts showing their support to keep the post office in its current location. Many local politicians have also voiced their disapproval of the decision to sell the building, including Mayor Tom Bates.
The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is loosely modeled on Filippo Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, a seminal work of the early Renaissance.
Rally attendees behind Nader wore paper masks of state Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband Richard Blum, and chants of “Kick the Blum out” could be heard from the crowd.
Blum has long been the target of Berkeley Post Office advocates’ ire. He sits on the board of CB Richard Ellis, the real estate firm that was in 2011 awarded exclusive rights to manage postal service facilities for sale, according to a CBRE press release.
Activists behind Nader carried a sign reading “Most lucrative real estate deal ever — SCAM.”
Another target was Staples. The corporate office supply giant has drawn controversy for offering some of the services formerly only available at the post office, which some have said is an example of the privatization Nader argued against. A group of protestors has been trying to make this point by camping out in front of the Staples store on Shattuck Avenue for weeks.
The U.S. Postal Service “is breaking even in the last five, six years,” said Nader. “This is an exaggerated crisis, built with trojan horses, in order to fulfill a number of purposes. One is to deliver more business to the parasite private corporations. The second is to deliver real estate to developers. This is not just a historic post office, this is a piece of valuable real estate.”
Nader spoke at length about the importance of activism.
“You’ve got to show up. You’ve got to show up at rallies, you’ve got to show up at marches, you’ve got to show up in the courtroom, you’ve got to show up to vote, you’ve got to show up to support third parties, independent candidates… you’ve got to show!”
Nader also spoke to the mostly-older crowd about the importance of involving the next generation in social justice issues.
Young people “are in the commercial arena, because they want to buy stuff, but in the public arena, which shapes the level of justice or non-justice in the country, they’re not there. So you’ve got to take them there. My parents took us. They took us to the county courthouse, they took us to the town meeting.”
Nader will be speaking Wednesday night, July 30, at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. He has a new book out called “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.”
Charles Siler is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the North Bay and now attends Tulane University in New Orleans. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Satellite post office at Berkeley Staples draws protests (07.10.14)
Berkeley mayor to push for civic center overlay to protect post office (06.09.14)
Federal report calls to stop sale of post offices (04.14.14)
Locals, city fight on to stop sale of Berkeley’s historic post office (07.19.13)
Berkeley’s political firmament rallies for post office (05.03.13)
Post Office to sell its downtown Berkeley building (04.22.13)
Council asks for 1-year moratorium on post office sale (03.06.13)
USPS hears vocal opposition to sale of downtown building (02.28.13)
Post Office public hearing to focus on Berkeley sale plan (02.26.13)
Berkeley discusses future of main post office (02.13.12)
Protesters take Save Post Office demo to San Francisco (12.05.12)
Rally held to protest sale of Berkeley’s main post office (11.15.12)
Developer eyes Berkeley’s historic post office (08.01.12)
Chances are slim of stopping sale of Berkeley’s post office (07.23.12)
Postal Service plans sale of Berkeley’s main post office (06.25.12)
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