People's Park

People's Park, Berkeley
People's Park, Berkeley

People's Park in Berkeley, California, USA is a park at Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street that was created as part of the city's radical activism in the Sixties. It is today a popular hangout among locals with a community garden, a performance stage, a basketball court and the much-loved "Free Box." It is also the serving spot of East Bay Food Not Bombs and operates as a sanctuary for many of Berkeley's homeless. At times it has become a drug haven because local police often refuse to enter the park, not being sure of their safety. The mythology surrounding the park is a major part of local radical culture. A mural near the park depicts the death of James Rector, a student who died on "Bloody Thursday" (see below).


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History of the park

The University of California bought the land in 1968 and tore down dwellings inhabited by Berkeley's radical activists and members of the counterculture with the intention of building student residence halls and a parking lot.

On April 18, 1969, The Berkeley Barb, an underground publication, urged Berkeleyans to bring materials to create "the People’s Park." Hundreds of people cleared ground, planted trees, grass, flowers, and set up playground equipment while free food was distributed.

The People's Cafe was installed in People's Park 1991(?). It was a house trailer. Volunteers served approx. 100 breakfasts per day. It lasted a few months, then was ripped out of the park by UC early in the morning. This was after the Health Dept. visited the trailer (during a breakfast) and inspected.

"Bloody Thursday"

Missing image
Police push students down Telegraph Avenue

On May 15th, "Bloody Thursday", 250 Highway Patrol and Berkeley police officers invaded the park at 4:45 a.m. and cleared an 8-block area around the site. As construction of a perimeter fence began, a crowd of 6000 moved towards the park after rallying at nearby Sproul Plaza. Police fired tear gas at the approaching crowd. Protesters threw rocks and bottles. Sheriff Deputies retaliated with double-0 buckshot, blinding one man (Alan Blanshard) and killing another (James Rector).

At least 128 people were seriously injured, but no policemen were hospitalized. That evening, the current Governor, Ronald Reagan, called out the National Guard and banned public assemblies. (Some of the Guardsmen were also Cal students who got the order to report to barracks after returning from protesting). He was quoted on May 15, 1969 as saying "If there has to be a bloodbath, then let's get it over with." For days, the streets of Berkeley were barricaded as National Guard helicopters sprayed tear gas on the protestors. The National Guard occupied the city for weeks afterward.

Missing image
James Rector after being shot

The Berkeley Free Clinic was spontaneously inaugurated by returned Vietnam medics among the protestors who responded to the many injuries caused on Bloody Thursday. The Free Clinic became a permanent feature of Berkeley serving thousands of area residents and visitors in the following decades.

Eventually, the community reclaimed the land and rebuilt the park. For a period of time, the park was leased by the university to be run by the City of Berkeley. Further riots broke out in 1991 when the university tried to build volleyball courts in the park.

Radical protestors during the 1991 riots included 18-year-old Laura Marie Miller (aka Rosebud Abigail Denovo - RAD) who was arrested after police found bomb making materials and an alleged "hit list" of university officials at a campsite she shared with a boyfriend in the Berkeley hills.

On August 25, 1992, Miller, armed with a hunting knife and machete, broke into the residence of Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien on the UC Berkeley campus at 5:50 am. She triggered a silent alarm and was shot and killed by campus police before she could kill or injure the chancellor or his wife, who fled the residence. [1] (

The volleyball courts were dismantled in 1997 after constant vandalism. Today, People's Park is co-managed by community groups and the university.

External link

Alternative meanings

There are places called People's Park in: Berlin, Germany


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