We’ll be updating the these People’s Park history pages in the near future with much more, but for now here’s a taste.
The Creation of the Park:
“Through privileges of Eminent Domain the University of California bought a nice tax-free chunk of land in Berkeley, gave the over 200 residents living there notice to “quite and deliver up possession of the premises,” and brought in steam-shovels which religiously gobbled-up the emptied friendly old houses along with some bushes and a forgotten toy or two….For almost a year it was left this way, absent of people and homes, prey to cars and ugly.”—Bonnie Fisher, Daily Cal May 19, 1969
As a way to reclaim their neighborhood, create a place to have concerts and do something positive, a small group put out this call in the April 16th Issue of the Berkeley Barb:
People came and began to lay sod and make a park. Then more people came…
But despite negotiations between the University and the People’s Park Committee working on an agreement and plan for the park, the Chancellor got notice from Governor Reagan, perhaps from Vice President Agnew to shut down the Park. At 4:45am on May 15, 1969, 300 police in riot gear cleared the Park and a fence was erected. It was the beginning of “Bloody Thursday” that would leave one bystander dead, another blinded and many, many wounded.
Below are photos by Bill Haigwood after the Park was fenced in 1969
The Volleyball Court Protests
In 1991, The University of California planned to “take back People’s Park” by covering much of it with sports courts. While the basketball court was somewhat desired and used by locals, the double sand volleyball court was not. UC had under-used volleyball courts nearby and the public cried out against it. Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, Parks and Rec Commission and Peace and Justice Commission, after large public hearings, all agreed that the volleyball courts were not in the User Developed tradition of the Park, were not wanted and should not be built. Nonetheless, UC went forth with the construction, showing up with 8 different police departments to break ground on July 31, 1991. Days of rioting followed.
UC removed the court in 1997, as requested by the first meeting of the “People’s Park Advisory Board”.
Below are Brenda Prager’s photos.
Other moments in the Park’s History…