By Rosebud Van People
It’s official: People’s Park in Berkeley is condemned land. The University of California (UC) regents have approved destruction of the park to build high-rise dormitories. Or, that’s what it says on paper anyway! For 50 years now, every time they’ve put up fences, people have torn them down. (The university and the city council last ordered in the bulldozers in 1992. How’s that going?) All this latest decision means is UC has committed to stick their fingers into the hornets’ nest. Maybe we should send them a good luck charm, because as the phrase goes: “They try it, we riot!” And we win. Why would this coming year be any different?
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 back and destroy the park led to rioting, police shootings that left bystander James Rector dead and dozens wounded, and a week-long National Guard occupation of Berkeley. UC has always claimed to own the park, but since 1969 they have never been able to control it. Over the years, park users have practiced “user development” by building and tending gardens, trees and landscaping as determined by users, not government managers. It is a rare place in the city open to everyone, hosting a free speech stage and daily free food servings.
There will be a mass mobilization to defend the Park in Berkeley, probably in 2022. Get ready! People’s Park isn’t going anywhere.
There are several groups working on various fronts to save the park. Each is doing important work, and each has flaws. Organizing at the park has been pretty toxic this year. Be wary of cult-like thinking (the park is considered the last bastion of the 60s, after all). Bring visions of what land and community could be without state interference. The university has a lot of money, so we have to be out in numbers in order to fend them off.
Get all the info at DefendThePark.org Bookmark it! And you can text “SAVETHEPARK” to 74121 to get notified when shit hits the fan. See you there!
Have comments? Send them to:
• UC Chancellor Carol Christ (510) 642-7464 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Mayor Jesse Arreguín (510) 981-7100 mayor@CityofBerkeley.info
• Rigel Robinson, City Council, District 7: (510) 981-7170 rrobinson@CityofBerkeley.info
• Housing developer Resources for Community Development: (510)841-4410 rcdhousing.org