Save the Garden: An Open Letter to the U.S. Attorney General

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 (kith@spicejar.org) to arrange a date and time.

Sincerely yours,

BERKELEY POST OFFICE DEFENDERS

 

 

 

Hello to All Who Love Gardens and Post Offices

You can learn more about our community garden here.

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We have designated Saturdays at noon as our garden support day and we also invite people to stop by anytime with some bottled water and give a drink to a thirsty plant.

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Berkeley Post Office Defenders and First They Came for the Homeless usually meet on Mondays at 6 30 pm at the Post Office encampment. All are welcome to join us. unnamed2 

All the People Have a Place (and a Garden) at the Berkeley Post Office

The ground has been cleared of trash and weeds, and we’ve turned over the sod and amended the soil to break up the clay.  We’ve piled compost and manure to the side of the planting area, which is about 900 square feet in extent.  Situated on the West side of the post office, the garden will get healthy doses of sunlight.

First They Came for the Homeless and Berkeley Post Office Defenders have made these preparations and will organize the maintenance of the Garden of Common Good with plant and post office-loving community members.  The first planting was done on Saturday, Jan. 17.  More plants, compost, good soil, mulch, cured manure, and tools for planting are needed.  Food and water for gardeners can also be dropped off and community media postings are very much appreciated.

This garden is yours if you want it, just as our public postal service is yours if you want it.  So many things on Earth have been handed over to become private possessions for increasing personal wealth. The people of Berkeley have shown that we want to keep the post office for our collective use and this garden is an act of commitment to the concept of common good.

Without the pretension of private ownership, none of us can say, “This is mine.  Stay away!”  Instead, if our new garden is to flourish, it has to be respected and valued by everyone.  So it will continue to be a public garden as long as we all agree that it should be a garden for everyone.

From the beginning, our public postal service has been such a part of our communal lives, and we haven’t had to think of being without it.  It has endured so long and so well by using profits from the sale of its services to keep the cost of those services as low as possible while using some to build post offices everywhere they’re needed and to carry mail to the doorstep of everyone in the country.  The USPS hasn’t made millionaires out of its executives, nor has it divvied up its profits amongst speculators.  From the beginning, our post office has honored its mission to provide services that are of value to all of us – not just a group of shareholders, not just those able to leave their homes to collect and send mail from a remote location, not just those who can afford postage rates set to maximize dividends, not just those who live in densely populated areas, and not just those who live on the rich side of the tracks.

We who have been encamped at the Main Berkeley Post Office for two-and-a-half months want to keep this brilliant enterprise of universal service out of the hands of private speculators so that it can continue to do what it has done so well for so long and so that it can continue to serve as the best example of public ownership.

The public postal service is for everyone because it belongs to everyone.  And so is our fairly large postage stamp of a garden.  We think they complement each other nicely.

 

First They Came for the Homeless on KPFA

Mike Zint  of First They Came for the Homeless was interviewed by David Landau on Sunday Dec 21 for KPFA 6 pm evening news. The program is produced by Anthony Fest who has previously interviewed him and JP Massar of Berkeley Post Office Defenders. You can hear it on the KPFA archive about three fourths of the way in.  Leaving a comment helps KPFA know that people are interested.

 

We’re Planning to JAM THE SALE!

A Musical Mobilization to Stop the Sale of our Post Office

 From morning to night musicians will play on the Berkeley Post Office steps proclaiming our community right to retain our Post Office and protesting the privatization of public resources.  

Berkeley Post Office Defenders thank all the musicians who have given their time and energy for the past two years to stop the United States Postal Service (USPS) from selling Berkeley’s beautiful, historic, publicly owned Main Post Office building at 2000 Allston Way. The building has been emptied of almost all services except for a couple of understaffed retail windows, but no sale has been announced.

This fight is now at a crucial juncture, and all musicians who care about the public commons and the public good are invited to help win it once and for all. Please come to the front steps of our post office, with your friends and families and fans, and play music! Sign up here so we can find you when the event is scheduled.

Things are happening fast.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a surprising and welcome observation that far from being an obsolete institution, the Post Office is ideally suited to provide nationally plenty of necessary and even profitable services, from internet access and package delivery to basic banking. The OIG also released a report finding that USPS has failed to meet its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act to protect the public art, architecture and history our Post Offices hold, recommending that no sales take place until those issues are adequately addressed.

The Plan to Play

The OIG’s next report is expected to address the sales themselves. Our plan for action to stop the sale of Berkeley’s Main Post Office is to meet the release of that report with a demand for immediate withdrawal of our post office from sale. And we will make this demand with the persistent resistance that only music can sustain. From morning to night musicians will play on the post office steps under banners proclaiming our refusal to have our postal services discontinued and our building stolen:

“Haven’t you heard us yet?

Our Post Office is Not for Sale!”

 

Did You Miss the January 18 Camp-Out? Here’s What You Missed!

Here’s our light brigade in full swing.

We also heard music, collected signatures, and generally raised awareness. And the people in power are listening.

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… of this historic building and of great post office buildings around the country.

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.…of our national treasures and our good union jobs.

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Want your postal services to come from Staples? Want to pile more work, responsibility, and complication onto minimum-wage clerks whose employer won’t do the minimum to get people Affordable Care Act coverage? (There are already “post offices” in some trial Staples locations around the U.S.)