Created mostly by college students and community members during a time of radical political activism in the late 1960’s, People’s Park is located in Berkley California off Telegraph Avenue near The University of California Berkley. People’s Park is owned, managed, and maintained by the University of California. Today People’s Park serves as a free public park accessible to members of the larger community. The park offers innovative demonstration gardens, including organic community gardening beds and areas landscaped with California native plants, all of which were user-developed by volunteer gardeners. A wider audience is attracted by occasional rallies, concerts, performances, and hip-hop events conducted at the People’s Stage. The rich history surrounding the park is an important part of local culture.
1957 – University of California Regents earmark $1.3 million for purchase of land in the area. South of Campus (more playing fields, faculty offices, parking).
1967 – U.C. report recommends purchase of future People’s Park site, claiming area “scene of hippie concentration and rising crime.”
1968 – University sends eviction notices to residents; bulldozes their houses; creates muddy lot.
April 13, 1969 – Local merchants and residents meet and propose alternative uses for the vacant site, which has now become an eyesore (childcare clinic, crafts commune, baseball, rock concerts). Mike Delacour proposes a user-developed community park.
April 20, 1969 – People’s Park is created. Hundreds of people clear ground, plant trees, grass, flowers, set up playground equipment. Free food is distributed.
May 6, 1969 – Chancellor Heyns meets with members of the People’s Park Committee, student politicians, and members of the College of Environmental Design. Gives them three weeks to come up with a plan for the park. Promises no construction will begin without prior warning.
May 15, 1969 – “Bloody Thursday” — 250 Highway Patrol and Berkeley police offers invade the park at 4:45 a.m. and clear an 8-block area around the site. Construction of perimeter fence begins. After a noontime rally on Sproul Plaza, a crowd of 6000 moves towards the park. Police fire tear gas. Protestors throw rocks and bottles. Sheriff Deputies retaliate with double-0 buckshot, blinding one man (Alan Blanshard), mortally wounding another (James Rector). At least 128 injuries, but no policemen hospitalized. Towards evening, Governor Reagan calls out the National Guard and bans public assembly.
May 16-28, 1969. Protests continue on a daily basis. National Guardsmen block Sather Gate. A helicopter sprays the campus with CS tear gas. Campus referendum massively endorses the Park. People’s Park annexes spring up all over Berkeley. 9000 students protest in Sacramento.
May 29, 1969. Chancellor Heyns announces his support for leasing part of the Park to the City.
May 30, 1969. 30,000 people march peacefully past the Park.
June 20, 1969. U.C. Regents vote to turn the Park into a soccer field and parking lot. The Park is surrounded by a chain-link fence and kept under 24-hour guard.
1971. In March there’s another riot over the Park. 44 arrests.
1972. In May, after Nixon announces he’ll mine North Vietnam’s main port, an outraged crowd tears down the fence. In September, the Berkeley City Council votes to lease the site.
1972 – City Council approves plan to lease People’s Park from the University. Beginnings of the People’s Park Council (community activists).