In 1985, after years of mass struggle, the UC regents voted to divest $3.1 billion from companies profiting off apartheid in South Africa. Unfortunately, it was a sham, but this wasn’t discovered until after the movement had dissipated. On March 9, 1989, the Campaign Against Apartheid organized a torchlight march of about 500 people.
After the march, some students and homeless activists stormed and occupied a house at 2417 Haste St. This university-owned house had been vacant for 8 years.
Activists condemned the existence of vacant property while thousands in Berkeley were homeless. They favored direct action to reclaim it. During the week after the takeover, people worked to clean, fix up and organize the house and build political support outside.
Exactly a week after the occupation started, about 80 police officers evicted the squatters and took back the house. “It’s a crime to have that house vacant with people in the streets,” said Oscar Gutierrez, a collective member who was evicted.
The streets were filled with demonstrators after the eviction. A gay and lesbian rally was just ending nearby, and chants shifted to “What do we want? Housing! When do we want it? Now!” Hundreds gathered out front. From the Rochdale co-op across the street, people slung mud and bottles at police barricades.
By the next morning, the university had torn the building to the ground, claiming it had to destroy it in order to “save” it from the squatters.
note: the 2022-23 print version said the squat happened in 1985 – oops!