7 – People’s Park: Don’t unleash the demons

The University of California is preparing to obliterate People’s Park in Berkeley by constructing high-rise student dormitories there — construction could start as soon as June when UC students leave for summer break. In their fucking dreams! The university will never get away with it despite the sense of resignation and inevitability hanging in the air like the stench of rancid french fry grease. 

Slingshot does not know and therefore cannot disclose the specifics but People’s Park is magic — it is not governed by the standard laws of physics or social norms. So don’t believe the hype: There will be a mass mobilization to defend the Park the minute the UC moves to install a fence. Or maybe dragons will emerge from volcanos — who the fuck knows but the UC should be careful stirring up the demons that inhabit the park. 

People’s Park, located between Haste and Dwight Streets east of Telegraph Avenue, was constructed without permission in 1969 to create a beautiful community on vacant UC land. UC’s first attempt to seize and destroy the park in 1969 led to rioting, police shootings that left bystander James Rector dead and dozens wounded, and a week-long National Guard occupation of Berkeley. Since its re-opening in 1980 the park stands as a wild and free space that attracts people searching for a different world. A world not predicated on war, racism and exploitation.

The Park wasn’t then and isn’t now about merely a homeless encampment, no matter how UC wants to frame it to our deep disadvantage. If we allow the Park to just be about a homeless encampment, we’ve already lost. The park is about seizing institutional land and returning it to the commons. It is about reorganizing the whole society — a model for collectivizing factories, housing and farms. It’s about recognizing the value of open space and recreation.

UC has always claimed to own the Park, but since 1969 they have never been able to control it. What happens isn’t up to them — their land title is dripping in blood. It’s up to us.