Violence marks end of Berkeley’s pandemic eviction moratorium

Fight breaks out between protesters and landlords celebrating in a pub

Violence Marks End of Berkeley’s Eviction Moratorium

Berkeley Property Owners Association president Krista Gulbransen and photos of the protest outside of the Freehouse at 2700 Bancroft Way in Berkeley (Getty, Tenant and Neighborhood Councils)

Opponents and backers of Berkeley’s just-ended pandemic eviction moratorium have entered a new level of engagement: fisticuffs.

Blows and shoving matches broke out between protestors from the Tenants and Neighborhood Councils and Berkeley Tenants Union and landlords from the Berkeley Property Owners Association celebrating the end of the eviction ban, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Violence broke out Tuesday when nearly 100 protestors gathered outside the Freehouse pub at 2700 Bancroft Way, where around 40 landlords cheered the end of a ban from booting tenants who don’t pay rent. 

As landlords entered the bar, picketers wielded signs reading “No peace for evictors,” while chanting “See our might, see our power, landlords get no happy hour.” 

An hour into the protest, picketers headed into the pub with a cake that read: “Hey landlords, get a real job!” 

A landlord then attacked a protestor — and a fight broke out. Witnesses said that a man from BPOA slapped a woman from TANC and pushed her, according to Berkeleyside, which broke the news of the scuffle.

One protester then shoved BPOA President Krista Gulbransen to the ground, Becky Warren, a spokeswoman for BPOA, told the Mercury News.

Protesters then began standing on tables and chairs and throwing food, while one protester punched an older BPOA member in the face, Warren said.

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BPOA condemned the protesters for physically assaulting and threatening its members.

“Their tactics to escalate, intimidate and cause harm not only impacted our members, but also the restaurant workers and patrons who were dining at the restaurant,” the landlords group said on its Facebook page.

BPOA criticized Berkeley police for its lack of action, saying it did nothing to remove violent protesters. Berkeley was the last city in the nation to end its moratorium on Sept. 1.

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“Some of the members have lost tens of thousands of dollars of rents,” Warren said. “These are not big corporations, some of them are senior citizens who have one or two rental units. It’s been a huge financial strain on them.”

Lukas Carbone, an organizer with TANC Berkeley, said while it was “unfortunate” the protest ended in a fight, it underscores the violence of tenant evictions.

“Our original intent was to send a message that we as tenants are not willing to accept these sort of evictions and the end of this eviction moratorium without any sort of resistance,” Carbone said. “Tenants have to fight and mobilize with each other against the landlord class.”

— Dana Bartholomew