Re: [sixties-l] People's Park news

From: Ron Jacobs (
Date: Tue Jul 18 2000 - 12:00:31 CUT

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    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.

    -ron jacobs

    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.

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