A thing to understand about legendary university towns like Berkeley or Boulder or Madison is that they are fundamentally conservative in the ordinary sense of that term: they never change. Take Berkeley (please, as the joke goes). It’s got a hot race for mayor going off next Tuesday, and the Daily Californian is doing profiles of all the candidates. And I’ve found mine:
Zachary RunningWolf has campaigned for Berkeley mayor from a jail cell. Twice.
A staple in Berkeley activism folklore, RunningWolf has now run for mayor four times. He is best known for leading a 21-month long tree sit back in 2006 in protest of campus construction plans to cut down an old oak grove bordering Memorial Stadium.
This campaign season, he was arrested for a 30-day stretch beginning in September on suspicion of vandalism and marijuana possession while marching in support of a prison labor strike in Oakland. During his time in jail, he began a two-week hunger strike after his hearing was postponed twice. RunningWolf saw his incarceration as a flagrant injustice.
The whole story is worth a read if you have the time, but this section is vital to take in:
“In the city of Berkeley we don’t celebrate, we riot. We go against the machine,” RunningWolf said.
He frames problems in Berkeley and in the United States — or “United Snakes of Ameriklan” as he calls it — as symptoms of larger international issues. RunningWolf is a continual advocate against nuclear programs, and his most recent effort on the nuclear front is raising awareness for the ongoing nuclear waste spill in Fukushima, Japan. . .
Both his adoptive parents were white, and he didn’t reconnect with his biological mother, a member of the Blackfoot tribe, until 1999. Before, RunningWolf had been a chronic alcoholic. RunningWolf said his alcoholism “came through the ills of capitalism,” distraught that his job building houses required him to tear up environment.
Later, however, he secured his title as a Blackfoot elder, after he ran across the country from San Francisco to Philadelphia in 2001 in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an iconic political activist who at the time was convicted and sentenced to death.
So in other words he sounds like he’s the Forrest Gump of Berkeley. Anyway, he’s got my vote. If you’re going to go Berkeley, go full Berkeley I say.