More than 100 people, including some who say they plan to camp out, have gathered in front of a historic post office in Berkeley this afternoon to protest its closure.

The protesters represent the groups Save the Berkeley Post Office and Strike Debt Bay Area and are holding a demonstration and teach-in on the privatization of public services in front of the post office at 2000 Allston Way.

Strike Debt member Mike Wilson said the protest coincides with similar rallies in several other U.S. cities and will include speeches by activists and public officials, music and dance performances, street theater, free food, public forums and street art.

“We hope to set an example for other municipalities to defend public space,” said Strike Debt Bay Area spokesman and El Cerrito resident Mike Wilson.

Just after 2 p.m., several dozen protesters at the rally were holding signs with messages such as “Our post offices are not for sale” and “The people’s post office,” Wilson said.

He said many of the protesters brought tents to the rally and plan to set up camp there when the post office closes for the day at 3 p.m.

“The idea is that we’ll stay until we’re forced to leave…we will make this an unattractive building for anyone thinking of buying it,” he said.

The Postal Service has said it plans to close the downtown Berkeley post office and hundreds of other post offices across the country because it is in poor financial shape due to the bad economy and a steady decline in mail volume.

The 52,000 square foot building, which was built in 1914, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Berkeley officials including Mayor Tom Bates, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, have also said they will fight the closure.

Laura Dixon/Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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