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The growing Tent City, now in its second week, is still up and running on the steps of Berkeley’s main post office. Some 25 campers in a dozen tents are getting ready for their 9th night in direct defense of this historic post office.
The action has attracted broad support in the city, and some great media coverage. Every day hundreds of old and new supporters stop by the information table, volunteering to join the campaign to halt the sale of the building and defend the people’s Post Office. Their strong support for the occupation is heartening. It seems that virtually the entire city of Berkeley wants to preserve the P.O. as a public institution, prevent it from being privatized, and defend the public commons.
Protesters denounce the Postmaster General’s decision to sell historic post offices in Berkeley, the Bronx (NY) and LaJolla (CA), close thousands of post offices and mail processing plants, and lay off 100,000-plus unionized postal workers, in what they say is a “systematic plan to dismantle and privatize the postal service.”
Participants in the encampment include a retired postal letter carrier, a minister, two graphic artists, a builder, musicians, a gardener and a former mail handler. An active support group provides food, flyers, supplies and and sound system.
Every evening features a delicious, freshly cooked dinner; music by local and traveling musicians; a daily meeting to decide on strategy and tactics; and “movie night.” Opening night featured the great Italian-language film, Il Postino (the Postman), followed up by The Postman, a Hollywood blockbuster; Matewan, about the coal wars in Appalachia; and a film about the 1970 Postal Strike that shut down the country’s mail service for most of a week.
The defense action is the latest in a year-long campaign. The entire City Council came out against selling the Post Office, as did both houses of the California state legislature. Many hundreds came out to demonstrate and pack the hearings, or gathered at the steps and in the lobby to sing songs celebrating the Post Office, including “Please Mr. Postman” with new lyrics.
Legal action to stop the sale is under way, as well as a plan to rezone the P.O. as part of a historic district of public buildings, so it can’t be sold to private investors.
[To see samples of TV coverage of the Direct Defense action, click on the link below]
David Welsh can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org