People’s Park Activists Sue City Over Freebox Removal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday June 20, 2006

People’s Park freebox users have filed a suit against the City of Berkeley for not holding to its 1994 agreement with UC Berkeley, which stated that a freebox, in which people put clothing and other items for others to pick up, must remain in People’s Park. 

Over the last few months, advocates of the freebox have been trying to reconstruct the box at People’s Park despite repeated efforts by UC Berkeley to remove the box. The park currently does not have any kind of freebox. 

The plaintiffs in the case are People’s Park activists Dan McMullan and Michael Diehl and all users of the freebox, who charge the city with not trying to force the university to restore the freebox. 

The mayor’s office declined comment on the suit. 

McMullan, who is also associated with the Disabled People Outside Project, said that the absence of the freebox from the park was causing problems for the homeless who depend on it for their survival everyday. 

“The box wasn’t doing anybody any harm,” he said. “We are people who depend on it for clothes and so much more. Everytime we want to build a new one, UC takes it away. It’s very frustrating. The box has been on the park premises forever.” 

Diehl, who works at the Berkeley Free Clinic, agreed. 

“The UCB police tell us that it’s been done to curb drug and alcohol dealing but the fact of the matter is that all these activities go on anyway,” he said. “The whole situation has actually gotten worse since the box was taken down. Right now there is even some talk of cutting down the trees in the park.” 

According to Diehl, the city had been asked through numerous letters to enforce the 1994 agreement with UC but had not received any kind of response, prompting them to file a lawsuit on June 9 at the Oakland Superior Court.