Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.
As you probably know, in the middle of the night on January 3, the University of California (UC) called in about 1,000 police to seize People’s Park in Berkeley — arresting a handful of people who refused to move. UC then used about 150 empty steel shipping containers to build a 17 foot tall wall all the way around the Park — topped in places with razor wire and protected by lights and cameras. Police towed cars and sealed off several city blocks — requiring apartment dwellers within the cordon to prove they lived there. If you walk around and see the wall, it’s hard to believe it is right in an urban neighborhood with fancy houses and dorms across the street. UC is still in a Court case over their right to construct a $312 million dorm on the Park.
Why is Slingshot publishing an extra edition about People’s Park? Without People’s Park, there would be no Slingshot Collective. As a group starting in the 1980s and since, we met each other at the Park and the Park informed our lives and our activity. The wingnut direct action scene in Berkeley is woven up with the Park — everyone is going to have their own stories and their own connections there.
So we decided to pull together a really quick zine — whereas normally it takes us months to write and edit articles, this zine came together in just one night. Please forgive the errors and omissions!
People’s Park is famous and controversial because of its dramatic creation story. In 1969 a diverse spontaneous coalition of radicals, visionaries and ordinary Berkeley people gathered to build the Park themselves, on land they knew they didn’t own, without seeking permission and without any formal planning. The action was provocative and radical but also peaceful, hopeful and simple. Building the park was a kind of protest without signs. Rather than beg for a new world based on less materialistic, more sustainable, more democratic values, people built a park that was the living embodiment of their dreams and alternative values.
UC — which (disputably) legally owned the land and which had been fighting increasingly bitter skirmishes with radicals and the counter-culture in Berkeley for years during the 1960s — responded ferociously to construction of the park. After thousands labored over a period of weeks to build a park, police seized it back in an early morning raid, leading to days of violent protests. Alameda County Sheriffs fired live ammunition into crowds, killing James Rector, blinding Alan Blanchardand wounding many others. The National Guard occupied Berkeley. This violent, authoritarian overreaction may have done more to guarantee the park’s continued survival than anything activists could have organized. The park became sacred ground — the University’s land title forever stained with blood.
Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers and distributors. We are a collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.
Thanks to the people who made this: Jack, Jesse, Josh, Lola, EP, Luca, Needle, Rachel, Robin & all the authors and artists!
Volume 1, Number 139, Circulation 1,000 (?)
Printed January 14, 2024
A publication of Long Haul
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