OAKLAND -- Amber Whitson, one of the final two campers at the Albany Bulb who was arrested in May, will have her next court hearing on August 18 at 9 a.m. in Alameda County Superior Court Department 102.
Whitson, Phillip Lewis and Erik Eisenberg requested a demurrer at a hearing in June, a legal assertion that whether the accusation is true or not, it does not constitute a crime. The demurrer was over-ruled at an Aug. 13 hearing. At the same hearing, the Alameda County District Attorney's office clarified the illegal camping charge to one of "trespass by lodging and disorderly conduct."
Whitson and her partner Lewis were arrested in a pre-dawn police raid on the Bulb on May 29, along with Eisenberg, a supporter. They were all charged with misdemeanors for illegally camping or lodging on property without the permission of the owner. Criminal trespassing charges were added later.
The city owns the former landfill known as the Albany Bulb, which is in the process of being incorporated in the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park under the management of the East Bay Regional Park District.
About 70 people were camping at the site a year ago. The city began a campaign in May, 2013, to remove the campers through a combination of enforcement of the city's anti-camping ordinance and contracted services with a local church and a local non-profit group.
A lawsuit filed by residents of the Bulb and their advocates was settled in April, with 28 of the 30 eligible residents receiving payments of $3,000 each in return for promising to stay away from the Bulb and certain other properties in Albany for at least one year. Whitson and Lewis were the only eligible plaintiffs not to take the settlement. Instead, they requested the court dismiss their claims without prejudice, a request the court granted.
A number of the former Bulb campers moved to an area under the Gilman Street overpass until Berkeley officials had the site cleared in July. Reportedly, several of the former Bulb residents are now camping by the railroad tracks in Berkeley.
It is expected the DA's office will request a stay-away order for Whitson at the Aug. 18 hearing, preventing her from being at the Bulb. Lewis already has been subject to a stay-away order thanks to a subsequent arrest. Since her arrest, Whitson has been offering tours of the Bulb to interested people.