May 23, 2016
The Honorable Loretta Lynch
Attorney General of the United States
[Open letter: sent via Internet and by mail.
Available for website posting and email distribution]
Dear Madam Attorney General:
As I hope you know, protesters whose goal was to protect and defend Federal property from private encroachment set up a 24-hour information center on a corner of the land surrounding the Berkeley Main Post Office in Berkeley, California. That direct action presence was in place for over seventeen months. A free box for sharing clothes, tables for food and book sharing, and a community garden were created and maintained. The community garden is in a space that had previously been used as a litter dump, and was done as part of our attempt to improve federal property. During this time the City of Berkeley and thousands of community members succeeded in quashing the Postal Service’s plan to privatize the land, sell the building to high-profit developers, and and endanger the future of the beautiful and historic Post Office Building building.
Residents of the community have been informed by Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin that your department was involved in authorizing the April 12, 2016 raid which demolished and cancelled these community services and displaced the people who were living there and providing them. This information was provided to Councilmember Arreguin by postal and/or postal police officials. Also please know that Berkeley city police were witnessed advising people to sleep in the community garden. When ongoing and open drug abuse by those who had been advised to stay there was reported to both the Berkeley and Postal police no action was taken. These actions and nonactions were disruptive and destructive to the whole area, especially as it is across the street from Berkeley High School. Rather than help solve the open drug abuse problem and restore peace and well-being to the area, your team chose a scorched-earth option by fencing off the garden and corner and removing the bike rack.
Now, two people, one of them an active participant in the 17-month information center, is being charged for impeding access to the post office, which no one involved in the protest ever did. We note that none of the drug dealers have been charged with anything. It seems to us that the current barricade is impeding access, which our protest never did.
We are writing now to ask you to have your marshals take down the barricade so that we can tend to the crops in the community garden. We have been watering our garden with a bionic arm water transport driver and a step ladder. It seems unduly harsh to let the vegetables die uneaten in the course of suppressing free speech and preventing access to federal land.
Ideally, of course, the barricade will be taken down and left down. Ideally, you would welcome peaceful public protest on federal land, as well as gardens, fresh vegetables, and sources of good information. However, if you can only see your way clear to taking it down long enough for people to tend to the garden, we can be reached through Debbie Notkin (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange a date and time.
BERKELEY POST OFFICE DEFENDERS