Trespassing on a Public Bench


Bertha, 1951-

“Say what?!”

This is my famous bench. Everything you see here, the cart, blankets, clothes, the radio, is mine. She crochets while talking, a thick vibrant blue thread in her lap. Over there, she frees one hand and points behind her without looking, is the city council, that white building. Whenever they have their meetings, they can look out the windows and see me. I am here, always here on my bench. The first time they arrested me, I was also here, on this bench.

Let me tell you a funny story about it. Well, funny and not funny. One day, two police officers wearing black came over. One tall, the other Asian.

‘You’re trespassing on this bench!’ they tell me.
‘Say what?!’
‘You’re trespassing on this bench!’
‘How is it even possible to trespass on a public bench?!’ I asked.

It must be a joke, I thought the first time it happened. The second time I was arrested for it happened on Martin Luther King Street in Berkeley. The third time in Oakland, minding my own business. Trespassing on a public bench! Tell me, have you ever heard of something more ridiculous?

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