UC Berkeley is using a wall of shipping containers to block activists from the new site of its student housing complex

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UC Berkeley is using a wall of shipping containers to block activists from the new site of its student housing complex
UC Berkeley and other authorities continue to clear People's Park and place giant shipping containers and stack them by twos to barricade the park on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024 in Berkeley, CA.Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
  • UC Berkeley is trying to build a new $312 million housing complex on the iconic People's Park.
  • But activists have delayed its plans for months, camping out on the site and tearing down a fence.
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UC Berkeley's had to get creative when dealing with protestors trying to stop the university from building a new housing site.

The university on Thursday said it's stacking shipping containers to create a "secure perimeter" around the historic People's Park in Berkeley, California, which activists say should be preserved.

"Over the next few days, surrounding streets will be closed to traffic while crews install a secure perimeter consisting of double-stacked shipping containers," the university said in a public statement.

The rows of containers were set up after a previous effort by UC Berkeley to maintain a fence around the area was foiled by protestors in August.

The makeshift wall is around "15 to 16 feet high," UC Berkeley spokesperson Kyle Gibson told The Associated Press.

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UC Berkeley's $312 million housing complex is set to provide apartments for students and local people without lodgings on a 2.8-acre site at People's Park. Around 60% of the site will be left as an open park space, the university said.

Protestors are opposing the redevelopment because the park was central to the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Some people without permanent housing have also been camping on the site, though UC Berkeley said it recently offered them accommodation elsewhere.

UC Berkeley is using a wall of shipping containers to block activists from the new site of its student housing complex
People's Park on a night that UC Berkeley and other authorities prepare to cordon off People's Park on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024 in Berkeley, CA.Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Activists have delayed UC Berkeley's construction plans for months. In August, people in a mass protest pushed down a fence that UC Berkeley tried to use to cordon off the area.

But the university swept through the site in an early Thursday morning takeover, with armed police officers cutting down trees and clearing the area of activists and campers.

Several people tried to hold out in a treehouse, but eventually left on condition of them not being arrested, per The Guardian.

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Seven people were arrested by the end of the takeover, per local media reports.

UC Berkeley is using a wall of shipping containers to block activists from the new site of its student housing complex
Activist refuses to come down from a treehouse as UC Berkeley and other authorities clear People's Park on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024 in Berkeley, CA.Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Despite gaining control of People's Park, UC Berkeley can't start construction until the California Supreme Court resolves legal efforts filed to block the building attempt, the university said.

"The site is being closed now to lessen the possibility of disruption for the city of Berkeley and campus communities," read its Thursday statement.

The university added that its new housing complex is "urgently needed," with the UC Berkeley campus hosting enough housing for only 23% of its students.

The empty shipping containers around People's Park echo the hundreds of containers set up to fill gaps on the Arizona-Mexico border in 2022. State officials had lined the top of those containers with barbed wire.

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