August 1991 Emergency Bulletin

Digitized edition of the emergency bulletin distributed on Telegraph in August 1991 to coordinate park defense.

A difficult stage of the People’s Park struggle has been forced upon us. A broad coalition of students, activists, homeless, neighbors, and people from other communities have united in the face of UC brutality to restore the park and reverse University expansionism.

While we abhor the stance of the Telegraph Avenue Merchants Association, which promote the persecution of the homeless and the desecration of People’s Park, and hope the T.A.M.A. will join us in creating an all-embracing true community in the neighborhood, we are actively discouraging participants from damaging or looting stores.

We know that the events of recent days have led to inconvenience, confusion, and anxiety for many people in the area, please understand that we are fighting for our very survival, both those of us that are homeless, and those of us who, although housed, must create and work in an environment of caring and sharing for our lives to have any meaning whatsoever.

All summer long, People’s Park activists have been hard at work making the park a safer, more meaningful, and more fun experience. We invite the input and energy of the whole community for this endeavor, and look forward to large community meetings to make this happen.

Black-and-white drawing of people hoisting flag above People's Park sign

Why We Are Opposed to University Construction

This is NOT just a Volleyball Court

Sports facilities are simply the most convenient way to disrupt and suppress the activities in People’s Park, and are not the result of a need for new facilities. The imposition of the sports courts, especially after all proposed courts have been completed, will:

  • Eliminate the open meadow character of the park that is essential for large, popular festivals and concerts, and conductive to frisbee, hackey-sack, large pow-wow type gatherings, including religious services, and other lawn activities.
  • Create a difficult environment for current users of the park. Homeless people are treated like garbage throughout our society, and the operation of the sports courts will give the University police the excuse they want to expel or harass people in the park as “nuisances.”
  • Simply restrict access to large portions of the park. The University plans to restrict access to the courts to students for the prime daylight hours, and charge for court use during the remaining hours.

Encouraged by University propaganda, People’s Park has become a scapegoat for neighborhood problems. The construction of the facilities will NOT reduce the presence of obnoxious drug dealers in the area. These persons are more commonly found on or near Telegraph Avenue. Most of them commute to the area and are not dependent on Park resources. Disabling the Park’s function as a resource for homeless people and people at risk of homelessness will increase the burden on the city and community to provide for the poor.

The University of California is the sixth largest defense contractor in the United States, and has a laundry list of other controversial activities as well. The University has been consistently uneasy about the progressive activist community on its doorstep, one of the strongest in the country, filling its students heads with strange ideas. The University has promoted gentrification and rising rents to disable this community, and has put pressure on centers of political activity. People’s Park is such a center, functioning as a forum for people who lack access to major media or other means to get the ideas across to an audience, and as a major networking point for activists. People’s Park is a critical resource of Berkeley’s vibrant street community, a source of avant-garde music and art.

The University Does Not Own People’s Park

In 1967, the University seized the land that is now People’s Park by eminent domain, a procedure designed to appropriate public land for crucial public needs. This was invalid and therefore void because:

  • The need for proposed dormitories did not truly exist. Claiming a lack of funds, the University never built the dorms in the two years they had access to the land.
  • The University’s clear motive was to disrupt and disperse the counter-cultural community existing in the low-income housing the University obliterated after seizing the land, a serious abuse of eminent domain.

Under common law, the basis of our current legal system, any entity holding title to a piece of land they allow to go fallow and decrease in value over a given period during which the property undergoes common usage stands to lose the title of this property to the commons. In other words, People’s Park in the property of the unincorporated association of People’s Park users.

Park Supporters Resist UC/Police Invasion of Southside

See scaned file below

Summer of Resistance, Summer of Change

This spring and summer has seen a profusion of new activity in People’s Park, affecting all aspects of the Park.

Things got roaring when the Berkeley City Council surrendered to the University lease, a grueling five-year plan to reduce the park to nothing. The People’s Park Defense Union was formed, a group open to all meeting in the Park to discuss and plan ways to improve the park and resist University expansion. A general sentiment was to plan multiple festivals to increase consciousness and energy in the Park.

An enormous concert on April 28 sponsored by the old People’s Park Council proved that the Park is open to everyone, as vendors filled Haste Street and thousands filled the Park. The next rally on May 19, the anniversary of James Rector’s death in 1969, showed the potential of “user-development” as hundreds of concert goers helped rennovate and enlarge the stage.

Other groups added their energies. Newly formed East Bay Food Not Bombs added its menu to the Krishna Temple and the Catholic Worker, strengthening the Park’s role as a free food distribution center. Women in Action now holds weekly meetings in the Park, confronting the abrasive male energy that often dominates the Park and opposing sexism in the community as a whole.

Concerts continued. At a massive rally on June 23, sponsored by the People’s Park Defense Union, construction began on a flush toilet. Park users had previously constructed a series of toilets, each of which was torn out by the University. On July 4th, in defiance of a University refusal of a sound permit, another concert and smoke-in was held in the Park, bringing punk rock to the Park.

After activists were forcibly ejected from a City Council meeting, a nightly vigil (organized by mostly homeless park users) in the Park and later on the sidewalk was started. Police behavior in the park had been atrocious for years, but the harassment sustained by the vigilers was still quite intense. The vigil created a strong 24 hour prescence for over a month (up to the morning of the bulldozing) and a strong sense of community.

As attention and activity in the Park increased, crime and litter were reduced. The last rally on July 28, by Women in Action, featured all-women performers and speakers. Park users plan more concerts in August. Future construction projects include a children’s playground, and a restoration of the underlying creek, restoring more of the land’s ancient beauty. A wooden bridge will corss [sic] the creek at the path.