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 ( to arrange a date and time.

Sincerely yours,





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.