Only after the death of People's Park did our Berkeley community choose to celebrate a holiday so grimly and realistically.
I should warn you: from here on I am following an emotional line, and not a chronological sequence, vectoring in on the matter of the Park. I come at it bass-ackwards because it left me a bit crazy with love and fear. I want to take the rich fabric of the Event and stretch it till its limits are revealed, I want to unravel just one of its multitude of luminous threads and follow it out a way further.
As I write this, People's Park is twenty months dead, the War has been coming steadily home since then. Now it has reached Laos, and our sweet Bay is full of Standard Oil as Spring comes round again. Yet against all the signs and portents of terror, and early weariness at the marrow, the Wedding we celebrated in the Park continues to begin again.
The Bare Facts about the People's Park
Somewhere else I'll tell you the full literal tale, here is enough for now:
In 1966 the police lied with statistics to brand the South Campus Area as a focus of rising crime and a target for redevelopment. A year later the university's Regents, fascinated by the "small, hard core of agitators" theory of campus unrest, decided that the worst elements of our hippy slum lived in the block running East from the single legendary heart-block of Telegraph. So they bought the block to build high-rise dorms on -- in the indefinite future -- and razed all the fine old apartment houses to the ground. For three seasons the great muddy field lay idle, rutted by cars daring enough to park.
In April 1969 we took the next step with our territorial imperative. In full consciousness, freaks and politicos organized an assault on the key institution of Capitalism. Claiming our turf in the spirit of the Indians who once guarded it for all without ownership, the people of the dense, grass-starved South Campus Area tried to rip off the private property of the Regents, the men who run the State, and put it to public use. Black people, hippies, longshoremen, working wives, children, old people, hard-line activists -- here for the first time all came together in common work. For six weeks we labored, and brought forth a Park. And it was mighty pretty, as fine as what happened with us during that time.
On the seventh week there was no rest. The charade of negotiations played out, neither city nor university would even hear of selling us the property; they freaked out at the fresh dirt on our hands. At 3 A.M. the bulldozers and fencing crew arrived with 300 cops to turn it back into a parking lot. At noon we gathered at the Plaza, then marched to the fence. This time they used shotguns. One dead, several crippled, several hundred injuries, a thousand arrests. It went on for days, Reagan ordered the National Guard in to occupy the town, they gassed us from a helicopter. We ran, and planted Parks all over our Berkeley.