1970 — Berkeley Eviction Protest
In 1970 I stumbled on two tenants' strikes in my Berkeley neighborhood west of Grove St. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way).
These two protests, my neighborhood's response to eviction notices, was typical of the heightened level of political reactivity in Berkeley created by a decade of student and community activism. In researching this topic II couldn't find any material documenting rent strikes in Berkeley in the sixties. At the time these photographs were taken, rents were affordable for students if they shared housing. A two-bedroom apartment went for about $75 a month.
Renters had little protection against eviction, which could take place at the whim of a landlord with 30 days notice. My wife and I had rented a house in nearby Albany before we moved to Berkeley. The landlord of the Albany house had been made aware (probably by the FBI) that I had been accused by HUAC of being a communist, and after we moved in, she told us we'd have to leave unless we signed a (illegal, I'm sure) lease prohibiting the holding of political meetings at our home. It was a case of sign or leave, and my wife was pregnant. We signed.
The photographs below show two common types of housing: larger, older homes, often "shingle" style, and apartment buildings with a dozen or so units, not particularfly well built or well-run. Tenants down the street from me On Roosevelt St. had received an eviction notice and were refusing to move out. Neighbors showed their support by trying to block police from removing the tenants and their belongings.
Berkeley tenants resisting eviction watch for police.
Neighbors opposing the eviction make their presence known to Berkeley Police.
She gave the cops a piece of her mind.
A platoon of cops in riot gear (including gas masks) approaches the small crowd at the eviction site.
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This peaceful protester was backed into a hedge and threatened with violence by police.
There was at least one arrest. I never saw the protesters do anything provocative.
Berkeley police decided to clear out the small group of protesters that gathered, hoping to stop the eviction.
This eviction at a Berkeley apartment building drew a big crowd at least two TV film crews and more Berkeley Police.
I'm not sure what this sandbag barricade at the apartment building was supposed to accomplish, but it wasn't flood control.