In keeping with a long tradition of activism, Berkeley’s Housing Department is asking the City Council to officially participate in a grassroots “blackout” protest of the Bush Administration’s energy polices.
“The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this recommendation was that it was not from a councilmember trying to promote themselves, but from a city department,” Councilmember Kriss Worthington said. “It’s a testament to Berkeley culture where activism is embraced throughout the city and its organization.”
If the resolution, written by Energy Officer Neil De Snoo and endorsed by Interim Housing Director Stephen Barton, is adopted, Berkeley will officially participate in a statewide protest that is being organized primarily through
Barton said he is unaware of any other municipalities that have officially adopted a policy supporting the protest.
The protest is aimed at the Bush Administration’s energy policies, which Barton says puts too much emphasis on fossil and nuclear fuels and not enough on conservation and alternate energy sources.
The protest is also aimed at state energy suppliers for abusive pricing practices, Barton said.
According to a posting on the Ecology Center’s Web site, the protest, known as the “Roll Your Own Blackout Campaign,” will take place on the first day of summer, Thursday, June 21. The posting, which does not include any information about the campaign organizer, calls for a voluntary blackout between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The posting asks participants to “turn out your lights. Unplug whatever you can unplug in your house. Light a candle to the Sun God, kiss and tell, make love, tell ghost stories, do something instead of watching television, have fun in the dark.”
The Housing Department’s recommendation asks the City Council to urge citizens, businesses, institutions and municipal employees to participate in the protest.
“I think that’s fine,” said Mayor Shirley Dean. “We can get the information out through press releases, the city’s Web site and through neighborhood group e-mails.”
Barton said the city’s official participation would cost little and the city might even save some money by keeping the lights out.
Barton said most city offices are closed at that time so it would be no great sacrifice for the city to participate. “It’s not a particularly high-use time of day,” he said. “It’s when most people are home.”
Police spokesperson Lt. Russell Lopes said the public safety operations would not shut off power during the protest but may participate in a symbolic manner if the City Council asks.
Barton said another exciting aspect of the protest is that word is getting out on the World Wide Web. “There’s a lot of excitement about the Internet as a organizing tool,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how it works.”
Barton said traditionally the only organizations that have been consistently successful at statewide campaigns are large business interests and unions.
Barton said he didn’t think it was necessary to include suggestions for activities people could take part in while the television is off. “I think of all the places in the state, Berkeley has the least need of suggestions about what to do for a few hours without electricity.”