BERKELEY, Calif. - An appeals court on Friday issued a temporary injunction, preventing any demolition and construction at the historic People's Park in Berkeley, following days of protests over a controversial student housing project.
The University of California, Berkeley said the ruling delays plans and increases costs to build a complex that would accommodate about 1,100 students and 125 formerly unhoused people.
"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 university said in a statement.
The court order allows the university to block off and secure the perimeter of People's Park.
"The campus is now assessing options to get that done in a safe, effective way," university officials said. "While we are dismayed by the readiness of some individuals to engage in dangerous, violent and unlawful activity as a way of expressing their opposition to the project, our commitment to addressing an urgent student housing crisis, and to supporting unhoused members of our community, is unwavering."
Before the injunction, UC Berkeley had already paused construction following clashes between protesters and police officers.
The university said demonstrators destroyed construction materials and knocked down a chain link fence around the park. Two officers were injured, and seven people were arrested.
They were arrested on various charges, including battery on a peace officer, trespassing and resisting an officer. One of them was taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, the university said.
Some protesters have remained at the site, even vowing to camp out in hopes of stopping the construction altogether.
Many demonstrators said they have a personal link to the land, and they don't want to see the historic park changed.
Nicholas Alexander built a community kitchen there.
He said he was a foster child who became homeless and lived in People's Park before he became an English major at UC Berkeley.
"I graduated in 2018," said Alexander, "We're not here to get people hurt. We're here to save the park."
The protests harked back to the spring of 1969 when community organizers banded together to turn a site that the state and university seized under eminent domain and turned into a gathering space now known as People’s Park.
After the university erected a fence around the park, protesters sought to reclaim it, triggering bloody battles that resulted in police shooting and killing one man and wounding dozens of others. That May 15, 1969 uprising, known as "Bloody Thursday," triggered even more protests and then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan summoned the National Guard to occupy Berkeley.
The land is still owned by the university and campus police are responsible for the area. However, the city of Berkeley is also concerned about safety on the surrounding streets.
Mayor Jesse Arreguin called Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern on Thursday about mutual aid, raising the question of whether deputies would respond to an emergency request while also respecting the city's ban on tear gas.
"We were told the past couple years that the Alameda County Sheriff would not send mutual aid to Berkeley because of the ban on the use of tear gas," said Arreguin.
Ahern said deputies would be available to help in the future, but not with crowd control if the ban remains in place.
"Our units are trained with tear gas and that's how we disperse violent crowds that are damaging property or harming individuals, so we will respond, we just won't be responding to assist with movement of the crowd," Ahern said.
Berkeley's mayor says another concern for Berkeley Fire Department is fire danger, as the abandoned trees left by construction crews dry out.
"They're very concerned about the fire risk there. So one of the things I've talked with the university about is we need to work to clear the debris," said Arreguin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.