Is Occupy Berkeley—Berkeley branch of the international anti-Wall Street movement—on a collision course with the city it occupies?
Yes, and no.
Bearing a list of "directives" which he delivered, Jim Hynes, an assistant to Berkeley city manager Phil Kamlarz, visited the Occupy Berkeley tent encampment in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park on Monday . The camp has grown to twenty-five tents and now sprawls over much of the park.
The directives include bans on overnight camping, cooking, alcohol, drugs, and smoking. But the first nettlesome park rule to emerge is the rule that park users must yield to scheduled events.
According to Hynes, two such events were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, but Urban Strider, a camp operative, succeeded in getting the previously scheduled events relocated. The relocated events might have required the Occupy encampment to clear out.
City councilman Kriss Worthington, District 7, breathing a sigh of relief, noted at a Thursday camp meeting that. "if a future scheduled event did not yield" so readily, the encampment would be at odds with the scheduled events directive.
Worthington said that he has been in regular contact with the city manager, interceding on behalf of the anti-Wall Street encampment. Worthington added that he is also interceding with Michael K. Meehan, Berkeley Chief of Police, whom Worthington characterized as not planning any police actions in the park at present.
Worthington added that Max Anderson, District 3, and Jesse Arreguín, District 4, also had interceded on behalf of the protest.
Back from Occupy Oakland, where he had spent the past three days, Russell Bates gave a report from the Berkeley camp's health and safety committee commenting that it was "inevitable" police would crack down. Indybay, an on-line Bay Area radical network, is reporting an expected crackdown in the park.
In a week that has seen Occupy Oakland erupt in violence, Occupy Berkeley is struggling to keep its protest non-violent. The nightly planning meetings have approved at least three anti-violence proposals.
Thursday's planning session (a "general assembly") was interrupted by a new arrival, a self-described homeless humorist, with "quibbles."
Later, Quibbles (likes the name) was pitching his tent in a tent-city annex near Allston Way facing Old City Hall, as what sounded like either a domestic disturbance or rowdy foreplay from a nearby tent caused him to question his decision to join the protest.
Quibbles said that he had been "evicted" from his last encampment over disagreements with fellow campers.
When Occupy branched out from Bank America Plaza to Civic Center Park ten days ago, Worthington negotiated the relocation of a homeless contingent discreetly overnighting there.
According to Worthington, the previous occupants at Civic Center Park feel they've found accommodations they like even better than Civic Center.
Inconveniencing the homeless at Bank of America Plaza had been a sore point with Occupy Berkeley from its start. From time to time planning session speakers would acknowledge the presence of homeless people. Sister Adriska, a homeless woman in a wheel chair, won the hearts of the protesters; some of the homeless people encamped in BA plaza participated in planning meetings.
Now Occupy is on the verge of being occupied by homelessness as more homeless people join the tent city in the park. It's difficult to get an accurate count, but with "annexes" of the main encampment spreading in the park, a sizable portion of the encampment is homeless.
In general, the homeless part of the protest, while not an organized faction, seems to fit in at the encampment in the park. Maxine Ventura, a homeless woman, has participated in general assemblies, and serves on committees managing the encampment. She spoke in the public comments portion of Tuesday's city council meeting, saying she had lost her home to foreclosure and was sleeping at the protest in a tent with her two children.
One of her kids seemed on Thursday to be none-the-worse for his ordeal.
Still, incidents of violence in the camp are averaging three per night, according to several sources. A "legal committee," has formed to augment the existing mediation committee to try to deal with disputes within the encampment.
City of Berkeley police are frequently summoned when mediation fails. According to Larry Silver, a People's Park activist, and a protest functionary (he maintains the camp), a Berkeley patrolman told him that if the assaults continue, police would have to intervene.
Meanwhile vandalism, assaults, and theft regularly occur. Silver says "we need 24- hour security.
Perhaps the upcoming "How (Occupy) Berkeley Can You Be?" celebration scheduled for Sunday, from 3-7 p.m. in the park (saved by Urban Strider and Kriss Worthington) will salve some wounds. The event may answer just how Berkeley the international anti-Wall Street movement in Berkeley will ultimately be.
Ted Friedman misses his South Side sources," whom he fears may have scoops he's missing in his own neighborhood. Michael M. and Urban Strider contributed.