About 25 queer settlers descended on a downtown Berkeley Starbucks on Saturday, August 17, 2003 claiming Berkeley as “a city without people for people without a city.” The group, organized by QUIT!, posted a banner proclaiming the reclaimed café “Queerkeley – A Prophecy Fulfilled.” They also erected homes (transformed “Palestinian civilian homes reclaimed from another street theatre action), lawn furniture, and signs reading, “It Works In Palestine, Why Not Here?” and “It’s Ours Because We Say So.” They erected plastic palm trees to “make the concrete bloom,” and gave patrons a tract explaining their religious claim to the land as follows:
And the Lord saw that the queer people were harried in this land. And the Lord spake onto the prophet Harvey, “You will lead your people across the wide waters unto a new land.” Harvey was fearful, and he cried to the Lord, “How will we cross the wide waters? For they are cold, and they are filled with all manner of hazardous substances and raw sewage and other pollutants.” And the Lord responded, “fear not, Harvey, for a great bridge will be built, and the people will cross into this land. And this land will be called Berkeley. I say, Lo, I have promised the land of Berkeley to the lesbians and to the gays, and to the bisexuals, and to the transgenders and to the intersexed, and to all of the gender variant peoples. And this land shall be blessed with fruits and nuts, unto 50 genderations.” Book of Reclamations and Realty, 4.0.
The group selected Starbucks for the location of their first settlement in Berkeley because Starbucks founder and CEO, Howard Shultz, is a major supporter of the Israeli state and the corporation has become the prime target of an international boycott of corporations with ties to Israel. “Since Mr. Shultz clearly believes it is okay for one group of people to grab land belonging to another and say they have a right to it, we figure he won’t mind if we take some of his,” a QUIT leaflet explains.
Workers in the cafe were surprisingly unruffled as the Queer Defense Forces entered the café and announced over a loudspeaker that the land had been confiscated by the Queer National Fund and curfew for straights would begin in five minutes. Several “patrons” were forcibly ejected from the café by means of SuperSoakers (which were especially popular with a three-year-old settler).
Many coffee drinkers quickly cleared out, but one group of chess players steadfastly ignored the group, who vow to set up more settlements in the coming months. More.