Deja vu all over again.
1969, 1972, then 1979, then the 1980s...It seems the University just won't
give up. Write the chancellor and give him hell.
here's an excerpt from a work in progress ...
Another showdown. For those who were around in 1969 or 1972, it was an
eery deja vu. Some of the same cops and some of the same fighters in the
battle for People's Park were facing off again. The park was a piece of
land that the University of California had been attempting to develop since
the late Sixties and had been rebuffed by determined community resistance
each time. The veterans on both sides were all a little grayer, but the
grudges remained. For most of us, though, it was the first major battle.
Not like those daily skirmishes where the cops swaggered through the park
spreading their porcine presence. They'd walk over to a group of folks and
demand identification. If you refused, you went to jail. No questions,
just handcuffs. Counterinsurgency of a certain type.
The University of California had pushed it too far this time. The afternoon
before, their police escorted a bulldozer into the park and began removing
benches. The morning paper spoke of a plan to start charging for the
westend parking lot. We'd heard rumors about the possibility for months
yet in our negotiations with the University they insisted the rumors were
lies. More bureaucrats speaking with forked tongues. The bulldozer was
phase one. One of the park's denizens --a big mean guy named Tommy
Trashcan -- walked over to the dozer and pulled out the ignition wires.
The police attempted to arrest him as their backup arrived. After a twenty
minute tussle, Trashcan was in the police van and it was surrounded by a
couple dozen folks. The cop at the wheel revved his engine and charged
through the crowd. After that, somebody went to the toolshed and brought
out a couple pickaxes. We took turns removing the asphalt piece by piece.
After giving us a series of unheeded warnings the cops left.
Before dawn the next morning several hundred enraged citizens hung around
in the park. Some passed out leaflets urging drivers to park elsewhere,
some people drank an early morning beer, and some sharpened sticks for use
in the attack they felt sure was coming. In the parking lot across Haste
Street were the police. Maybe a hundred cops milled around drinking
coffee, putting on their riot gear and talking on their radios. The
adrenalin levels were high all around.
About half an hour before the University had commanded the new pay parking
lot to open, a Hog Farm bus drove up. While some of the parks swarthier
defenders removed the machines demanding parking fees from the earth, the
bus's inhabitants began handing out balloons and tying a string of them
around the park. Those of us in the park smiled a little, our tenseness
eased a bit by the Farmers' antics. As I watched the officers across the
street however, I noticed that their apprehension didn't seem to change.
As the defining moment approached, Salty, a member of the park's organizing
and maintenance committee, spoke on the phone to the mayor, Gus Newport.
The Hog Farmers continued to distribute balloons. While they found plenty
of takers among the citizens in the park and those who came to park, they
couldn't pay any of the cops to take one. Just as the riot squad moved
into their attack formation, the mayor drove up. He got out of his car and
waved good morning to the park's defenders. Then he told the police to
leave. Since he was the city cops' boss they did so, cursing, one can be
sure, the commie son of a bitch all the way back to their cars. This left
a much reduced force of University police who could do little but observe.
Which they did for six weeks.
During those six weeks the parking lot was removed piece by piece and the
beginnings of a garden were put in place. The occupation of the park
enjoyed tremendous support for the first month. The first couple weeks
worth of evenings, in fact, turned into big picnics with folks from all
around the Bay Area bringing food, beer, and musicmakers. Merriment
reigned those nights as people met new friends and hung out with old ones.
Professionals with loosened ties on their way home from work joined
together with hardened park habitues, musicians, college students and
brothers from the streets of Oakland and West Berkeley and began to plant a
garden where the parking lot had stood. Local businesses brought donations
of plants and building supplies. As time went on, though, the picnics got
smaller, and eventually the only people who remained were those who had
nowhere else to go. This was mostly a collection of street people, petty
criminals who made their living from selling bogus dope to tourists, and
hard core gypsies. Two days after Thanksgiving the cops moved in and sent
everyone on their way.
The anger remained, however, as did the garden planted in that short-lived
parking lot. Over the next few months a stage was built in the park and
those of us who still believed in the park's essential difference from the
rest of America's "private property" and weren't too disillusioned for
whatever reason, continued a public campaign in the park's behalf.
Concerts were planned, agreements with the university penned, and gardens
We also started a newspaper which served the dual purpose of keeping the
larger community informed and the street community involved in its own
destiny. Everything seemed to be moving forward. The spring began with a
couple concerts that came off quite well. Robert Hunter of the Grateful
Dead played a May gig there, as did a band formed by a couple former
members of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Despite some rather disconcerting
public sex in one corner of the park, things went smoothly. Not Disney
World, but not bad for a bunch of freaks.
At 02:17 PM 07/17/2000 -0700, you wrote:
>UC Berkeley controls People's Park
> The University of California at Berkeley has decided to take back control
>of People's Park, the famous site of anti-war demonstrations, sit-ins and
>concerts, from the city of Berkeley.
> University officials say that not enough students use the park, which it
>owns, to justify the $200,000 the college pays the city for upkeep each
>year. The school has paid the city to maintain the park for 11 years.
> Park lovers are concerned that the move is a step to change the park.
>University Chancellor Robert Berdahl said last year that the park may be
>better used as a housing site.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jul 18 2000 - 17:06:37 CUT