A group of people camping out around Berkeley’s historic post office in protest of plans to close it have been warned to move off U.S. Postal Service property, officials said today.
A group of postal inspectors and postal police visited the protesters today and warned them that they needed to remove their tents from the steps of the historic post office at 2000 Allston Way, U.S. Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch said.
Protesters, who are camped and gathered on three sides of the building, were also asked to remove signs they had attached to the building itself.
Fitch said the visit today was “low key” and that protesters are welcome to express their views from the sidewalk adjacent to the post office, which is city property. He noted that the group is blocking the steps and setting up tables and serving food in the area, all of which pose safety hazards.
“We appreciate their enthusiasm about the postal service, but if we allowed these guys, then any number of groups would be able to set up shop,” Fitch said.
The U.S. Postal Service said in July that it would proceed with plans to sell the post office along with hundreds of others across the country despite an appeal and community protests.
Protesters have been there since Saturday, led by the groups Save the Berkeley Post Office and Strike Debt Bay Area.
Mike Wilson, with Strike Debt, said the group includes around 30 people who were camping overnight, and they have no intention of leaving or moving. He said that if they are faced with imminent arrest, those who cannot face arrest will leave but others will stay.
“We’re planning to gather as many people here as possible,” he said.
Wilson noted that Berkeley police have been monitoring the protest and have a squad car in the area, but have not contacted protesters.
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 its closure.