7 – Mud pit & the creatures of the night


In times of disaster it is advised that households plan a meeting spot nearby to regroup and assess the situation.

An open space such as people’s park is a fine example. Plenty of directions to run to from falling objects. More important, there’s places to sit and rest. Lie down if you need to. Plenty of room to have some privacy or if needed, a communal spot. You too will need such a place say if an earthquake or chaotic fire sweeps by and destroys your home. Where you gonna go? An earthquake being a likely threat since the San Andreas fault runs a few miles away from downtown Berkeley and its cluster of tall buildings. Why is it again the developers are so obsessed in building these sky scrappers…oh yeah a quick buck. The cocaine dealers must have alot of developer parties to perk up these days. Fuck you scum. 

This may sound vapid….but the disaster for the Bay Area was the arrival of the capitalist system.

For most of us it’s hard to see the land here before the Gold Rush. Since that time, almost 200 years ago, changes came hard and fast. Human activity has covered up most of the attractive natural landscape. There are still scattered open spaces that can inspire someone to see this world the way it was. There are still some spots of pristine nature, especially the sporadic ancient trees towering more proudly than the current crop of new high rises.
The City’s Market Street, Oakland’s Broadway….all this new shit in Downtown Berkeley and around the campus…even the David Brower Center…it’s all bullshit.

And worse than making the present world ugly ­- the buildings are just tomorrow’s toxic trash pile.
While attending a funeral today, the week after losing the park, i happen upon Wendy o Matik. A close friend of the deceased who went by the performance name “Flaming Monkey.” We talk about the state of things and i realize that in 25 years, we will reach this anniversary of the gold rush. She speaks of the boom bust cycle that seems to be playing out here since 1849. As a young person in her 20’s she lived in San Francisco where the whole house was $400 a month rent. It wasn’t THAT long ago, folks. Since that time she grew deep and wide as a writer and a spoken word performer. Later in life she combined the two with another passion of leading small groups to embrace the idea of radical love.

As we speak, i can imagine the new electronic freeway billboards at the foot of the Bay Bridge flashing messages for the latest war effort. I can see gross wealth inequality at play in San Francisco. I can also see the fleet of driver-less cars disperse through the City….getting us ready for the day when the streets will be menaced by corporate police robots.

Wendy & I also got to talking with an Oakland Native who goes by the name, “Co-co.” We talk of the destruction of People’s Park –and a way of life. He reminded us that culture comes from the people who are well-practiced in leisure time. The Park, always the poster child of what capitalism considers society’s ills. The useless jobless loaf up there with the rest of the hated.

Now on the cusp of universal income…of 20 hour work weeks (or less)….where the world will live with more (not less) leisure time…. the Park is sacrificed.

News Flash. UC Berkeley Destroys a Free Book Box
On the morning of January 4th (of the year of no-lord 2024) police operated a heavily armed take-over of public space. A fucked-up yet exotic garden on the Park’s western side was immediately removed. Serene sitting spaces with benches and lush green vegetation trampled. Berkeley’s last spot to freely smoke tobacco “pacified.” A bulletin board with notices on resisting airport expansion and a mural of recently deceased Park founder smashed. The free book box was a recent addition. The kind you see in most neighborhoods these days (see article Slingshot#138). Post-modern even. On the side of the box a slogan painted with the cliché: “We can imagine the end of the world but not the end of capitalism.” This message as well as the books more exercises in futility. Silly hippies….the people today only read what’s on their phone. On January 3rd–the last day–the free book box was suspiciously containing Disney dvds. 

One wonders about the cops on scene during the park transformation into a kill-zone. Did the pigs grab a souvenir Little Mermaid from the free book box for their kid? My mind had to wander in other fields than what the CIA intends it to. On day one when the park was killed, pigs dug a giant trench. Mother Jenny secretly suggested to me UC buried nuclear waste years ago during the time they installed a volleyball court and are just now removing it. Hmm, i could imagine that. The best of dubious rumors have always lingered in the air of Berkeley (must be the chemtrails). But i rather thought the giant pit should be turned into a vast mud pool…. for the cops to let loose and do some after warfare wrestling. Naked even. Barbaric. Manly.

The allure of the Park is difficult to put to words. I would speculate that it is a site where one partakes in the ancient tradition of taking a new name. A name that is markedly different than what your parents gave you. The corners of Dwight, Haste and Bowditch a place to try out matching the new name to the face. Is it there i truly became, “eggplant”? How did we get “Hate Man”, “Sweet Tooth”, “Condor”, “Running Wolf”,”Pink Cloud”, “Sand”, “Apple”,”Spider”,”Dumpster Muffin”,”Yukon”,”Mouse”, “Owl”, “Compost”, “Commen-Terri”…. 
where did they come from….where did they go….

What name will you take on to aid in the great transformation away from the death-machine culture of capitalism?

“I got lost 

in that dream
Find the new world 

at the edge of a sneeze”

When i’m not writing for Slingshot I sometimes follow the spark to make a song. Some music notes put together in a particular order. Add some words to those notes, trying to graffiti the emotion underlying everything. Just popping off i come up with a sound that has legs. I been working on a new song lately…thinking it would be good to play when we gather to retake the park. 

6 – My heart is under the barricades

By Lydia

A very small park in Berkeley has been barricaded with shipping containers stacked up high and high and high in the sky. Many people were injured and jailed in the process. I’ve received messages from friends asking me to play outside the barricades and I have to tell them I can’t. My body is not one that can run from the cops or sit out on the street in the cold for hours. I stumble my way to work in the morning and can’t really tell how far away the ground is or how close I am to the trees lining the streets. 

I believe maybe the old hippies at the park are having a harder time than I am, I know one that is almost blind and one that only has one leg. I don’t understand why I can’t snap out of it. It is so hard to heal when everything is falling apart around you. 

Imagining a free world, like so many anarchists like to sit around doing, depresses me to no end. People’s Park was one place that I was able to see through the cracks of the system into a beautiful world where people truly cared and protected one other. 

When I was better I benefited greatly from the community at People’s Park, I ate Food not Bombs, worked in the garden, participated in large and intense consensus meetings, shoveled massive piles of wood chips, attended a nonviolent civil disobedience training, attended a protest shield use training, met friends, played music on the stage and more and more. My experiences at the park and with the people will be with me forever.

I called my mom on the phone in October when the genocide started and asked her if she had always felt like the world was ending or if it was just me and she told me about the day she heard that the Berlin wall fell. Attempts to control a population are as constant as a people’s fight for freedom. 

We have now seen how afraid they are of us. We are so much more powerful than they have allowed us to believe.

6 – The Day After

By jean meeds

I had just heard about the People’s Park takeover by word of mouth here in Berkeley, and that day after the first night when people’s park was occupied by the police, I was walking down University Avenue towards the Berkeley Marina where I saw a caravan of Highway Patrol cars that stretched from the corner of University and San Pablo all the way to the bridge that goes over the freeway. And they kept coming with all the cars completely full of 4-5 Highway patrolmen, as it was later in the day and they were heading to People’s Park to do the night shift. I talked to a few marginalized people on the sidewalks who were not familiar with the takeover yet. While we having our brief discussion, The CHP’s were checking us out and looking at us like we were persons of interest. One has to remember that Berkeley, CA is the place where the origin of the idea of a militarized police force first took place under August Vollmann. Vollmann came back from a counter- insurgency war in the Philippines in the time period of 1899-1902, went to the U.S. and began forming police units with the idea of treating civilians in the community the same way they treated the insurgents in the Philippines. Obviously that idea still has impact today as that was how they treated the people who were in the People’s Park that night – like they were the insurgents when the police invasion happened.

Part of the conversation we had was about the enormous amount of overtime money that the police were going to be paid as part of this operation. Their base pay is around $110,000 and with the overtime pay that was used as an incentive to get them to stay at the park overnight, this was going to add up to a huge sum of money that the city most certainly could use in better ways. This is a topic that almost everyone I have talked to about this subject seems to agree on, regardless of what their political orientation is or whether they are for or opposed to idea of People’s Park. 

A little later that afternoon/early evening I met a person from Portland, OR, now living in Berkeley, who was pulling weeds and gardening. She didn’t know anything about what was going on in People’s park, but she did mention what was going on here was similar to what was happening in Portland during and after the time when George Floyd was killed. The Federal government sent in a contingent of Federal officers to put down the demonstrations. She also mentioned that things were not yet healed between the Police and the community. This also has some relevance here in Berkeley as outside police forces are again being sent in. 

It is also of interest here that while I was a women’s /girl volleyball coach at Longfellow Middle school in the Fall of 2023, there were young 6th grade players who would wear People’s Park T-shirts to practice. This indeed shows the positive influence of the park upon the local community! Also on a recent trip to Amoeba Music, I had the opportunity to take a quick look at what was going on in People’s park and it looked like there was construction of some type going on which runs counter to their narrative that they could not/would do any work of this sort until the legal challenges were cleared. I had a quick conversation with a worker at Amoeba while I was making a purchase and his comment was that it was “sad.” 

When the formation of People’s Park was going on the late 1960s it did look like the world was in a Revolutionary state and real fundamental change could be accomplished. People’s Park was part of the heritage of this era. Now, that the Counter-Revolution is in vogue, they are attempting to tear down one of the symbols of that hope for a New and Better World! There is still time for us to withstand this assault on People’s Park and to take up the struggle to remake the world into more egalitarian place for all!

5 – Bigger Picture

By Jesse

Let’s not be myopic – it wouldn’t be worth it to focus our activist energy on a 2 acre park in Berkeley while we’re facing war, climate change, extreme wealth inequality and rising authoritarianism IF this struggle was really just about the Park. People’s Park has never just been about the Park.

The University of California (UC) doesn’t see this struggle as really about the Park, either. No park is worth sending in hundreds of police in the middle of the night to erect a blocks-long, 17 foot tall shipping container wall topped with razor wire.  Does UC really think Park supporters are super-dangerous disciplined insurgents like ISIS or the Viet Cong? Have the UC undercover cops never been to the Park meetings or hung around the activist scene in Berkeley? Surprise — we’re really nice regular people, some hippies and punks and students and older people — we have vegan potlucks, art supplies, musical instruments and bicycles.  Why would the UC over-react like this?

The UC attack isn’t about student housing — the Park is far from the only UC-owned land on which to build a dorm. UC has a 55 year-old grudge against the Park. UC built the shipping container wall for the same reasons UC was willing to shoot live ammunition and bring out the National Guard in 1969 – they want to provethat a People’s movement cannot take land. 

UC wants a world organized around money such that a few powerful people and the institutions they dominate control the lives of everyone else.  They use police and walls to keep us living in toxic, unsustainable, boring and soulless boxes. We demand a world that values freedom, beauty, decentralized non-hierarchical community, do-it-your-self moxie, and tolerance for a variety of different kinds of people — not obedience, conformity and greed.

When we took the Park in 1969 and held it all these years, it proved there are alternatives to this rotten system outside their non-profits, shitty jobs and endless condos. 

Back in 1969, like now, UC thought they could use unrestrained force to get a full win — a fence stayed up around People’s Park from 1969 until 1972 — but it turned into a standoff because of the magnitude of UC’s over-reaction — they had blood on their hands. So UC began a 50 year campaign not just to get the land back, but to win in the court of public opinion — to convince the average person that there’s no alternatives to their system and so UC should get to use the land as they see fit. 

And by 2024, UC thought they had won because for decades UC did everything they could to ruin and isolate the Park by frustrating improvements and convincing whoever would listen that the Park was dangerous and messy. UC actively sabotaged the Park — how else can we understand the very different fate of People’s Park vs. Willard Park which is only 2 blocks away?

The rulers keep playing versions of this nasty game — they make economic conditions so bad that people become unhoused or turn to crime, and then ask for more police to fight the problems the rulers themselves created.  They’re seeking to divide regular people against each other so we don’t focus on the real sources of our misery… 

UC wanted to teach Berkeley a lesson at any cost — “if you try to do something for yourself outside the system, you’ll never get away with it.” 

UC thinks all their police and their tall steel shipping containers make them strong, but it really just shows how weak and scared they are. They can build an ugly wall — but they’ll never win the real struggle. They cannot kill our awareness that a better world is possible. 

Standing in the blocked intersection in January, we laughed at the lines of police and yelled “You’ve fallen right into our trap! We have you just where we want you.” Obviously it doesn’t feel like winning to have a place you have known and loved your whole life sealed off and taken from you. I feel a sense of loss like someone died. I trace so many friendships back to the Park. It is odd to realize I may never sit there again — never hear music from the stage again. Never meet the Mardi Gras parade at the Park again. The word “never” hurts. UC wants it to hurt. Mateo said it felt like he had been dumped — he looked sad and broken. He wondered how he could visit Telegraph Avenue again without the Park? 

At times like these, we have to take the long-term view and not let them hurt us — not let ourselves become bitter or hardened or disillusioned. We have to focus on our strength, which is our love, our freedom, our tenderness and our community which are far more powerful and valuable than their police, their hierarchical organization and their fucking decaying empire. 

4 – Rage politics – Arm the skater boys

By Lola 

I showed up to People’s Park a day after UC Berkeley had erected their 17-foot wall of shipping containers and deployed what must have been over 100 fully armed cops to stand guard on all of the perimeters. I was with some friends, all of whom happen to be skaters. Some were there for the amassing protest, while others were just stopping by 510 (a skate shop on telegraph) on their way home from work. As the cops stood blankly in rows, tightly clutching their batons, a growing group of protesters began chanting, sharing food, and delivering speeches. I felt uncomfortable, caught spiritually between the mass of kindly activists shouting “whose streets? our streets!” and my friends, who were hanging back and debating snatching juice boxes from the protester’s snack tables and throwing them at the rows of cops. 

As keown announced he was going to go talk to a cute girl he saw standing alone in the crowd, I began to wonder about the distinct awkwardness i felt, and why it was so tied to the presence of my friends who, despite their seemingly apolitical behavior, hate cops and love people’s park just as much as anyone else present at the protest that night. What is this cringeyness, or embarrassment, that I so often feel when engaging in certain forms of activism? 

I thought about it for the whole drive back to our house in oakland, staring out the window from the freeway overpass, heading back in the direction of our well-rehearsed routines: drinking beer, and doing graffiti, and lighting christmas tree fires in the street, or watching dvds on our old tv from the living room floor. With every cell in my body, I despise the “united states.” The intensity of my burning hatred frequently brings me to tears, or makes me laugh, or fills me up with a kind of warming fire that I think is necessary for my survival. In my heart I’m an anarchist, and i try to be one in my daily life, too. So why can’t i be an anarchist when i’m at the protest? Why can’t the skater boys of the world, who are so ready to steal groceries and start trash can fires and flip off cops in the street, embrace a political identity?

I’m making generalizations here, but I do think this phenomenon —the depoliticization of punk/alt/skater antics (or in other words, the chaos that ensues when people hang out on the streets) — highlights a crucial flaw in our current protest methods. The flaw, put plainly, is that these protest methods are boring. And predictable. If you don’t feel called to chant “whose streets? our streets!” then nothing is going to come from your chant. If you don’t feel called to march down the street holding a cardboard sign, then no good will come from your cardboard sign. On the other hand, what if instead of using protest as a means-to-an-end, you seized the means themselves, acting in accordance with what brings you pleasure, excitement, and peace?

If activists were encouraged to act on impulse, act on rage, I think the benefits would be multifaceted. Not only would we be able to arm the skater boys of the world—by which I mean any and all people who are anarchists at heart, but feel turned off by politics—but we would also see far more successful protests. While I don’t think we should ever measure the success of a protest by what it achieves on paper (the real marker of success, after all, is whether or not you felt liberated) i do think that if we were to disperse, act more chaotically and in tune with our unique desires, the cops would have a much harder time shutting us down. 

Of course, there’s a lot of work to do, and not all of it is going to be fun or easy. Fighting against the state requires more than the relatively simple act of confrontational combat — there’s also all the internalized messages we have to work through and help our loved ones work through, painfully, slowly. With an abundance of thought and care. And yet, with that said, I don’t think we should ever get to a place where we view protest as a chore, or an embarrassment, or something you don’t want your friends to catch you doing. Protest should be an extension of yourself in the same way your artwork is an extension of yourself. Beauty that we can’t help but create in the face of all the worst the world has to offer us. 

And it goes without saying that dismantling the state is going to take more than throwing juice boxes. But as my favorite anarchist, Pat the Bunny, once put it: “i know there’s not enough windows on this planet to break us free…but maybe one will be just enough for some dignity.”

3 – De-fencing People’s Park: a short history

By 2track

People’s Park was born in April 1969. But UC, not appreciating the free-wheeling ignorance of their property lines, quickly fenced the park. The National Guard was called in and violently fought protestors on “Bloody Thursday” — inspiring a mass march 30,000 strong, shortly thereafter. But the fence stayed up and a new approach was needed.
July 14, 1969: 

During summer 1969, protesters baked wire clippers into loaves of bread and detoured another protest to the park. Lo and behold — the fence came down for a joyful evening.

May 8, 1972:

The fence was finally torn down for good, during a protest against Nixon’s plan to mine Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam.

November 1979: 

People rip up UC’s closed parking lot and create a community vegetable garden on the west end of the park. To defend it, they use pieces of pavement and logs to build a barricade on the sides of the park.

July-December 1991: 

Protests and riots rage for months against a volleyball court installed by UC. In December 1991, a vandal cut down the court’s main post in broad daylight. UC eventually concedes and the court is removed.

January 29, 2021: 

When UC installs fences to conduct soil testing on the park for the new housing project, students tear them down and cheekily deposit them on the steps of Sproul Hall.

August 3, 2022:

UC’s first attempt to begin construction in 2022 ends in humiliation. At 2am, contractors install military-grade fencing along the park’s perimeter. Park defenders can’t prevent the felling of many trees, but they do force the police to retreat by the afternoon. The “indestructible” fences are shoved down and stacked.

3 – Overheard on the Street

Ever since the wall went up, everyone’s been offering ideas for knocking it down or getting over the top. Here’s a few ideas we’ve heard.

• We heard that some Burning Man artists already built a giant Trojan Horse Sculpture on top of a bulldozer for a recent burn and that it is stored at some industrial land in Richmond. During the upcoming Leap Day Action night protest (Feb. 29), we heard they’re going to bring it to Berkeley and drive it through the big metal gates of the wall!

• Someone said that what’s really going to happen is that on Earth Day, everyone’s going to bring buckets of compost and mulch to an event in downtown Berkeley, but then at the last moment they’ll all make their way to the Park, dump the buckets and form a big hill on Bowditch Street — Big enough to build a bigskateboard ramp and a slide.

• We heard that someone has figured out where all the rented security guards get their jackets and they’re going to bring a truckload to Berkeley — then at the Mardi Gras, everyone’s going to change into the jackets and rush the Park gates. The real security guards won’t be able to figure out what is going on and they’ll think it’s the relief shift so they’ll abandon their posts. Then people carrying guitar cases and other instrument cases seemingly on their way to a gig will unpack plasma torches, and cut through the fucking shipping container walls. 

• Another comrade claims that stilt walkers from the Shen Yun performance group will suddenly appear at the BART station and use extra tall stilts to make it over the wall. Or perhaps they’ll be pole vaulters?

• Then there’s the tunnel-proponents — they’ve suggested it would be easy to tunnel under the wall. The police will have to check under all the floors of buildings within a block of the Park to stop them.

• The Lake Anza surfing term has suggested hiding a ladder cut up into pieces in their boards so they can get close without being detected — then snapping it back together and climbing over. 

• There’s a lot of talk about creating distractions, disguises, pranks — dog walking parades, performance artists. 

• Some people want to put LSD in the water, but others don’t want to waste perfectly good LSD on a bunch of Berkeley-bourgeois-uptight-squares! 

• Someone else said that a volcano is going to erupt in the middle of the Park and melt the wall.

• On a more serious note, many people are plotting to occupy a number of important university buildings as a diversionary tactic. UC will have to bring police to dismantle the occupations, and then we’ll make our move to storm the gates. Or another version of this rumor is that we’ll trade the UC buildings hostage-style in exchange for the Park.

UC has said they will defend the wall 24/7 … forever? There’s cameras and lights and what look like loud speakers? 

Will the wall be the only place in the Bay Area without graffiti or vandalism? It’s ironic that while UC students’ bikes are getting stolen, while people are getting mugged, while cars are getting broken into — the police can’t help — but there will always be enough police for the wall. 

Has anyone ever attempted to build a $312 million building under armed guard? Will they send police to guard the cement trucks and the porta-potties? Will they do background checks for every subcontractor, every laborer, every delivery driver before they let them on the construction site? If the site ever becomes a dorm, is UC prepared to post armed guards around the perimeter 24/7 forever? 

2 – Before the bulldozers

The place we call People’s Park used to be a different neighborhood. Starting in 1963 the University of California began acquiring homes in a 2.9-acre area boxed in by Haste Street, Bowditch Street, Dwight Way, and Telegraph Avenue. They raised 1.3 million dollars and used eminent domain to evict every single resident.

The Espresso Forum on the corner still stands, it’s Amoeba Music today. The beautiful Italianate homes, duplexes and colonial revival houses had been converted into boarding houses and apartments by the 1960s. The neighborhood was a mix of students and working-class people. If you look at maps, you can see they didn’t touch the retail frontage along Telegraph Avenue. The bulldozer only came for the 25 homes.

That community I described; their addresses appear in a 1965 California Legislature report from their Senate Subcommittee on Un-American Activities. It describes the neighborhood as home to Communists, the FSM (Free Speech Movement), Socialists, and yes even Trotskyites, and Maoists. There was even a civil rights protest at the Lucky’s Store No. 18 grocery at 2455 Telegraph Ave. It’s not surprising that community would take back the space from underneath the pile of rubble the University left behind.

The University of California has named its motivation as growth. They plan to add thousands more students by 2028. As we learned in 1968 and 1991, they are comfortable literally killing people to do it. All told, about 200 people were evicted from their homes in 1965. That’s the community that was lost, and why losing it again is such a travesty. This is what always happens when the monied class wants to take something; the rest of us lose something. 

2 – Introduction to issue 139

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

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley CA 94705*

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

510-540-0751 slingshotcollective@protonmail.com 

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