Oakland police officers cleared out homeless camps at Oakland's Mosswood Park Tuesday, days before the popular punk festival Burger Boogaloo.
The sweep removed an estimated 20 people living in tents on the park grounds, according to Joe DeVries, assistant to the Oakland City Administrator. While the removal occurred just days before Burger Boogaloo, DeVries said that the city cleared the homeless in preparation for a program serving disabled youth. The program, which had been on hiatus since 2016 following a fire at the park's recreation center, expects 150 participants next month.
Concerns over issues created by the encampment, such as the sizable amount of syringes littering the grounds, led to the city clearing the park, a decision DeVries said was announced four months ago.
“We can’t have 150 disabled students recreating in a park where we routinely collect hundreds of hypodermic needles,” DeVries told the East Bay Times.
Burger Boogaloo released an official statement Wednesday afternoon.
"Burger Boogaloo is pained by the ongoing homeless crisis in Oakland and everywhere," it read. "As a consequence of events and programs planned at Mosswood Park, including our permitted event, people living there were asked to leave by Oakland Police. Prior to the Tuesday expulsion, Burger Boogaloo staff spent time assisting people in the park with the move."
Burger Boogaloo also stated that it had donated to Alameda Point Collaborative and A Home Away From Homelessness, two homeless assistance organizations, adding that "we encourage our friends and anyone concerned about the plight of people here in our community to do the same."
The festival further announced that the Homeless Action Center will have a presence at the two-day festival, with members collecting donations.
Calls to Boogaloo founder Marcos Ribak were not returned at press time.
Issues of homelessness have overlapped with the local music scene in recent weeks, with Jason Perkins of local venues the New Parish and Brick & Mortar Music Hall caught on security video pepper-spraying a homeless man. Some say Perkins also appears to have been behind flyers posted around the Brick & Mortar Music Hall which called for homeless people to clear out, and threatened physical violence and burning for those who did not. (A homeless benefit featuring Equipto, La Misa Negra and Mistah F.A.B. scheduled at the New Parish was moved to a different venue in response.)
Aleksander Prechtl, friend of Ribak and singer for the band Battleship, who are scheduled to perform at the festival this weekend, told KQED that he was "confident" Boogaloo's organizers "advocated the city on behalf of the homeless and would assist in minimizing the disruption to their lives."
"I've known Marcos for many years and have no reason to think he'd be anything but kind and generous to everyone, especially the homeless," Prechtl wrote in an email.
Prechtl opined that because the festival uses only half the park, an option might have been to move the encampment to another site in the park, but away from the festival. He added that it's on the city to "treat the housing crisis as the emergency it is."
"We should not allow homelessness to be ever seen as normal nor acceptable. We, as a society, need to treat housing and healthcare as the human rights that they are," Prechtl wrote.
This story has been updated.