As the holidays approach and the attention of many is focused elsewhere, the months-long saga of the “Poor Tour” continues. I am talking about the homeless encampment that is so easily recognizable by the colorful signs and clustered tents in the meridian strip on Adeline Street near the Berkeley Bowl. Or in front of City Hall, or in front of the Post Office, or wherever they can exist for a few days without being raided and dispersed by police. Despite numerous and legally questionable police raids under the direction of City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, this dedicated group of homeless and disabled people has brought the issue of homelessness to the front burner of city politics. It has become a question of civil as well as human rights.
For months, the individuals in the Poor Tour have given voice to the concerns of Berkeley’s poorest citizens and have pressed their demands for affordable housing in the long term and a legal campground as an immediate measure to ameliorate this dire situation. The Poor Tour is also calling on the City Council and the City Manager to get control of the police and to stop the pre-dawn raids. Sadly, the new City Council has not taken any definitive action. At their most recent meeting, they authorized additional shelter beds in times of extreme weather but basically allowed this crisis to continue along with the persistent harassment by police.
Meanwhile, homeless people with life-threatening conditions and various disabilities try to maintain their clean and sober camp, raise donations for portable toilets and continue to take care of themselves and each other despite attacks from the city. “First They Came for the Homeless” and “Disabled People Outside” are two groups that have provided consistent and essential support for this band of dedicated activists. It is outrageous that the City Manager’s office refuses to work WITH these people to keep the camp safe and healthy and instead continues to criminalize their very existence.
There is another troubling aspect to these raids. No matter whether one thinks about the morality of forcing people to “move along” in the middle of the night, as the video links below document, there are numerous violations being perpetrated by police and city employees. Some of them include:
- Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (failure to accommodate people with disabilities)
- Confiscation of property without due process or proper documentation (police are taking blankets and tents away from individuals)
- Failure to allow press to cover police actions and threats against members of the press (threat of confiscation of camera)
- Failure to allow public to witness and document police activity
I hope that people will take the time to look at the videos and consider whether Berkeley, as one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth could somehow do better by its people. In the spirit of the season, I ask the Berkeley City Council to become active on this issue. Stop the raids and allow for a legal campground in the City of Berkeley until adequate housing can be provided.
Dec. 21 2016 Berkeley removal of Adeline median encampement:
Dec. 21 2016, Berkeley removal of Adeline median encampment, Part 2:
Dec. 21 action, part 3:
Nov. 4 action with violations of ADA:
Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related, local authors are preferred, and we don’t publish anonymous pieces. Email submissions, as Word documents or embedded in the email, to email@example.com. The recommended length is 500-800 words. Please include your name and a one-line bio that includes full, relevant disclosures. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.