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Berkeley Homeless Encampment Sues BART Over Eviction Plans

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- For weeks, BART has been planning to evict a homeless camp near the Ashby BART station. But, the people who live there say they're not going anywhere, and now they're suing.

"The truth is that we're a model camp," said Jay Demello, who lives in the Here/There encampment in Berkeley with about 25 others, right under the Ashby BART station.

"We're just trying to take care of ourselves and the public sees us as just an eyesore," Demello said.

BART is planning to take down the encampment, but the people who live there filed a lawsuit in federal court, accusing the city of Berkeley as well as BART of violating their constitutional rights.

Demello said, "They bring in a truck and they just grab tents and throw them on the truck and dispose of people's medication, personal property, laptops, computers, you know, everything."

The judge issued a 7-day injunction, putting BART's plans of clearing out the encampment, on hold.

In a statement, BART says a neighborhood association, as well as a Montesorri School, asked the agency to clear up the property.  The transit agency accuses the campers of trespassing.

BART goes on to say that because there's no shelter here, no running water or electricity, that that presents some health concerns. Also security and safety.

BART says they're trespassing, that they just can't be on BART land.

"BART is a public property," Demello said. "All the tracks here are public property."

Jim Blair is also homeless and said, "If the cities would get together and build shelters for homeless people, then we wouldn't trespass. It's not my choice to trespass. It's my circumstance."

The federal judge will have another hearing about the Here/There encampment Tuesday morning.

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