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New injunction halts UC Berkeley People's Park housing project construction

New injunction halts UC Berkeley People's Park housing project construction
New injunction halts UC Berkeley People's Park housing project construction 00:35

BERKELEY -- Officials at UC Berkeley on Friday confirmed that a new injunction is preventing any construction work or other activity at People's Park, further delaying plans for a new housing project.

The lawsuit filed by Make UC A Good Neighbor and the People's Park Historic District Advocacy Group (PPHDAG) challenged the approval university officials recently received to commence construction of the new housing to be built on the grounds of People's Park. UC officials and representatives of those groups said the California Court of Appeal has issued a temporary stay that is stopping UC Berkeley from all construction and other activity. That includes demolition, taking down trees and other preparation that was stopped by protesters on Wednesday.  

On Thursday, police confirmed  the arrests of seven protestors during the Wednesday melee. Additionally, two officers were injured.

"The appellate court has imposed a new injunction that, for now, precludes UC Berkeley from continuing construction work at the People's Park and any other activity at the site that is not necessary for public health and safety," the statement on the injunction released by the university read.

The release also noted that the injunction is going to increase the delay and costs of the housing project, but officials said they were "pleased the court has agreed to an expedited process." The court is also allowing the university to close and secure the construction site ahead of the expedited ruling. Officials are currently "assessing options to get that done in a safe, effective way."

As of Friday, there were still dozens of protesters occupying People's Park who were saying they're committed to staying for as long as it takes to block a student housing project.  

"We are gratified that the Court of Appeal recognized that UC should not go forward until the court has the opportunity to review our case more fully," People's Park Historic District Advocacy Group  President Harvey Smithsaid in a statement. "UC took advantage of the legal system in order to destroy as much of the park as it could. We are hopeful that the court will overturn the lower court decision and lead to the restoration of the park."

Additional controversy over the clash between protesters and police emerged Thursday when Berkeley Mayor Jesse  Arreguin criticized the Alameda County Sheriff's Department for not providing mutual aid Wednesday because of Berkeley's ban on using tear gas, 

Arreguin called for a meeting Thursday asking the city council to reconsider the city's ban on using tear gas for crowd control but the mayor said he then reconsidered.

"Our police had requested that we consider suspending this policy so we could get those mutual aid resources coming to Berkeley. I still believe that using tear gas in law enforcement situations is wrong. These are weapons of war,"  Mayor Arreguin said.

Since Berkeley prohibits officers from using tear gas, it limits bringing in additional officers to help with crowd control. 

Alameda County sheriff Greg Ahern said that was never the case and, as long as he's been the sheriff, the department has never rejected a request for mutual aid.

"Some agencies will not respond if you're not going to allow tear gas to be deployed if tear gas is needed to disperse the crowd," said sheriff Ahern. He went on to say the deputies train for crowd control with tear gas. He said it's used as a step during force escalation before deputies move to less-lethal rounds like bean bags or rubber bullets. He said it would be a threat to officer safety for them to try to do crowd control without the tools they've trained with.

"My agency would not be able to respond to assist in crowd control, if you're not going to allow us to use those tools. However we would assist by providing transportation, booking," Ahern said.   

UC Berkeley has additional information about the construction project on its People's Park Housing Page.

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