This war has been waged on many fronts. In the majestic halls of Congress, where Congressperson Barbara Lee has introduced multiple bills to prevent the sale of historic Post Offices such as Berkeley's. In the shabbily small Berkeley City Council chamber, where resolutions against the sale, rezoning of the Post Office site to prevent commericial uses in the event of a sale, and authorization to proceed with a lawsuit emerged. In a well-appointed Federal courtroom in San Francisco where lawyers in suits argued the fine points of standing. And amongst a tent city and later a canvas shanty occupying the exterior of the Post Office building, where otherwise homeless people explained the scam of postal privatization to passersby. It has been fought in the mainstream media and on blogs, and, yes, even through the US Mail.
The intellectual property it has spawned includes the idea and realization of the Zoning Ordinance, new songs and lyrics, innumerable posters and flyers, and postcard designs.
Benjamin Franklin rose from the dead to speak against the sale, as did Ralph Nader.
At least eight volunteer organizations provided troops, ammunition, ideas and/or supplies: The National Post Office Collaborate, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Communities and Postal Workers United, Save the Berkeley Post Office, Berkeley Post Office Defenders, Occupy Oakland, Strike Debt Bay Area, First They Came for the Homeless and East Bay Food not Bombs. Tony Rossmann performed pro-bono in the courtroom while David Rovics and others provided free concerts. The Berkeley City Council came through when it counted.
The number of person-hours (and god-warrior interventions) that have gone into this struggle are, frankly, beyond even figuring out.
And so it has come down to this: the Postal Service has not renounced its intention to sell the property, but they know (and prospective buyers know) that they cannot sell it without both a protracted legal battle and continued opposition to the point of Occupation from the community. The Community knows that it has won a respite but not the war: locally, we've ground to a halt the juggernaut of a Postal Service management intent on steamrolling anything in the path of postal privatization, but we know full well that eternal vigilance is the price of keeping it so.
Berkeley Post Office Defenders has nonetheless called upon the Postal Service to give up on the idea of selling the building and work with the community:
Instead of a cycle of litigation without end, Berkeley Post Office Defenders and First They Came for the Homeless call on the Postal Service to permanently renounce a sale and enter into discussions with the community about how to best use the space for the public good in the spirit of the Zoning Ordinance we pushed for and which ultimately passed. We created the community garden on Milvia - a strip of land belonging to the Post Office transformed from a trash dump to blooming greenery. We have more ideas: using some of the excess space as an incubator for postal banking, as a library annex for online access, as a service center for homeless people and/or urban gardening. We suggest installing solar panels on the vast, flat roof, both for revenue and the environment. And there is office space along Milvia and the parking spaces in the back that could be rented - unused resources in the heart of downtown.
The Berkeley Post Office was built with the sweat and tax equity of our great-grandparents. It belongs to the people. It can and must remain as a Post Office in perpetuity - while additionally serving the community in other ways.
The war against postal privatization will undoubtedly continue on the national front. But Berkeley no longer needs to host the pantheon of contestants. Assuming the Postal Service comes down from its own Mt. Olympus.