Construction at People's Park paused following arrests

Seven people were arrested Wednesday after protesting UC Berkeley's construction at People's Park, according to UC Berkeley officials. Two police officers were injured during the tumult, authorities said. 

After a judge ruled Friday that UC Berkeley could begin building on the historic community park to expand student housing options, Berkeley police began clearing out the park early Wednesday morning, bringing in barricades, heavy-duty machinery and construction vehicles.

Police in riot gear pushed back against protesters trying to enter the park, making seven arrests for charges including battery on a peace officer, trespassing and resisting an officer. Later on Wednesday, construction workers and police withdrew from the park.

A statement from UC Berkeley read that construction work was paused "due to the destruction of construction materials, unlawful protest activity, and violence on the part of some protesters."

The statement noted charges of trespassing, theft, vandalism, battery (via push) and assault via caustic liquid (urine).

One arrestee went to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

"In the course of preparing and planning for the start of construction, safety has been the university’s highest priority, and that remains the case now," read the statement from UC Berkeley.

The statement also said that in the next few days, the campus will "assess the situation in order to determine how best to proceed with construction of this urgently needed student housing project."

The university said on Wednesday that they had a plan in place in case protesters returned on Thursday. A special Berkeley City Council meeting scheduled for Thursday night was canceled by Mayor Jesse Arreguin Thursday morning. 

"I’m canceling the meeting. Our policy stands and shame on the Sheriff for threatening to not provide emergency support to Berkeley," the mayor tweeted.

Arreguin's tweet criticizing the Alameda County Sheriff's Office was in response to a KPFA host who tweeted the special meeting was to suspend the city's ban on using teargas against protesters. That ban was put in place following George Floyd protests in 2020. 

On Thursday, the mayor called Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern about mutual aid.

"We were told the past couple of years that the Alameda County Sheriff's Department would not send personnel to Berkeley because of our ban on the use of teargas," Arreguin told KTVU. 

"Our units are trained with teargas and that's how we disperse violent crowds," said Ahern. "We will respond. We just won't be responding to. We just won't be responding to assist with the movement of the crowd." 

KTVU's Jana Katsuyama contributed to this report.