Berkeley’s Organizing Hub: The Long Haul Infoshop

Places like the Long Haul are vital in Berkeley's activist landscape, serving as political engagement and grassroots organizing spaces.

Berkeley’s Organizing Hub: The Long Haul Infoshop (Courtesy of Isha Smith)

One day while walking down Shattuck Avenue, I came across an assortment of CDs, tapes and zines in a cardboard box labeled “FREE.” Only after a few minutes of rummaging through did I think to look up at the building I was in front of. A sidewalk sign reading “Long Haul Infoshop” and a shelf of 25-cent books greeted me. That was the first time I had entered the place, and I quickly transitioned into volunteering — it’s the highlight of my week.  

The Long Haul Infoshop is an anarchist resource center and community space in Berkeley, California, and one that is near and dear to my heart. Community spaces like these are the legacy of Berkeley’s rich history of activism and counterculture movements. For decades, it has provided a space for discourse, community and solidarity.

It was founded in 1979 by Alan Haber, the first president of Students for a Democratic Society. Throughout its history, the Long Haul has served as a hub for local organizing, offering support for various causes and providing a physical space for the community in whatever capacity it needs. 

Places like the Long Haul are vital in Berkeley’s activist landscape, serving as political engagement and grassroots organizing spaces. Unlike traditional institutions, this space prioritizes principles of mutual aid, direct action and collective decision-making. 

Last weekend, I attended a work party there, which consisted of cleaning, organizing and chatting with new people. I spoke with J, a long-time patron of the Long Haul, about what the space meant to them. 

“It’s just a spot full of really good people. Every time I’m here I meet a new strange and awesome person,” said J.

We exchanged stories of the characters we had met there and talked about the tasks we were up to today for the work party. They were stuffing envelopes of the new Slingshot paper for mailing out. 

“I haven’t been able to come by as much lately, but I am so glad I did today. It’s always real special seeing all sorts of people working to clean up the Long Haul,” they said. “This place has always helped me out when I need it, so of course I’m going to come by and help when I can.”

The hub comprises of the Infoshop itself and the many organizations working out of the space, such as the Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution (N.E.E.D) and Food Not Bombs. These organizations distribute harm-reduction supplies and food to community members at no cost. The Slingshot Collective is another project that calls the Long Haul home. They are a free and independent radical newspaper. 

The infoshop acts as an information distribution center. The library contains a zine-making loft and a gathering room for meetings, study groups or simply hanging out. There are books, zines, buttons and hand-printed T-shirts for sale, but many of the items are free of charge. You can spend hours pouring over about 15 thousand loosely organized zines in its archive. In my time browsing the shelves, I’ve found some of the most compelling literature I’ve read and struck up conversations with some of the most interesting people I’ve met. 

Upon its inception, the space was used for organizing for S.D.S. Today, it is a community hub used for activist causes such as the fight for People’s Park. Organizers made posters for the park with the Risograph machine in the community print room. Hand-printed People’s Park shirts can be purchased at the Infoshop, with proceeds going to support People’s Park and those who used to live there. The Long Haul is a hub for collaboration that helps amplify the collective impact of local organizations and strengthens solidarity networks.

Food Not Bombs is a mutual aid collective that feeds people at no cost; they hold food distributions every Tuesday and Thursday at the Long Haul. N.E.E.D provides Long Haul with harm reduction supplies such as clean needles and Narcan for distribution. Having organizations like these makes the space a safe and supportive environment for community members whose needs are often neglected. 

The Long Haul hosts a diverse array of events and activities, ranging from skill-sharing workshops and DIY art projects to study groups on anarchist theory and history. The Leap Day of Action captures the ethos of the space. Described as “Not a traditional protest nor another frivolous distraction while the world goes to hell around us.” It is a call to use our extra day — leap day — for good. The event involves music, a roving street party, and the dispersing of seed bombs of native plants. The flyer for the event stated: “Life is too short and the world is too beautiful to waste more time muddling through tedious jobs, polluted air, and endless wars.”

The space is by the community and for the community, and there are many ways to get involved. You could attend a regular event, such as the writing workshops or study groups, or reach out to host an event or volunteer. It also isn’t the only space of this variety. The Slingshot Collective publishes a pocket-sized calendar and planner every year, complete with pieces from local artists, resource lists and multiple pages of radical contacts around the world — wherever you are, you can find spaces of a similar nature where you can connect and engage with your community. 

Like many alternative spaces, the Long Haul has faced challenges from the city and law enforcement. In 2008, the infoshop was raided at gunpoint by UC Berkeley Police, plainclothes FBI agents and the Alameda County sheriff. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued UC Berkeley Police on behalf of Long Haul, as they should have been protected under the Privacy Protection Act. 

The Northern California Land Trust, the landlord of the building, has announced its plans to demolish the building in 2025 or 2026. The Long Haul has been offered a “comparable space” in the newly developed building, but the offer has few details and is non-binding — so the future is uncertain for the space. 

For me, the Long Haul is a place of hope. Both hope for the world’s future, as people are doing work to support their community there, and hope for my own future. As a young person, the space shows me the importance of investing in the types of community I want to have throughout my life. As I grow older, I don’t have to lose my imagination, passion or hope. The Long Haul Infoshop stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of activism in Berkeley —  offering us a space for imagination, collective action and radical joy. 

Isha Smith (they/them) is a student writer and photographer living in Oakland, California.

Edited by shaylyn martos

Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now
Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now