45th People’s Park Anniversary: What Now?

by Steed Dropout
April 28, 2014


Photo by Ted Friedman.

Those shouts and exhortations you could have heard at a pre-anniversary (45th) People’s Park forum, Saturday, entitled “What is to Be Done Now,” could be radical…or Berkeley radicals’ last gasp.

A 45th park anniversary celebration would follow, Sunday.

According to those who addressed the forum audience of Berkeley rads on what now?,
there is government plot after government plot aimed at us and we must fight back. Authority, bad; opposition good.

Read the sign. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“Stop driving. Stop smoking.”

One speaker, who zeroed in on People’s Park complained about sexual assaults in the park and park violence (“even the concept of peace can be violent”). Enlisting community support, she asked “what are you going to do about it?” And we must be “a culture of accountability.”

Only hours before the forum, a homeless man was assaulted for interfering when a park ruffian denounced a sandwich from a church group. “Why do you serve such crap?” the ruffian, reportedly, snarled, hurling the sandwich to the ground.The kids from the food giveaway were discouraged and their advisor told me he might not bring his group back.

Disappointed food-givers. Photo by Ted Friedman.

That’s when Curtis Harris, 57, intervened. “Why do you berate them?” Harris told me he asked just before he was hit in the head. Harris, a former Oakland Raider Defensive Back, knows pain; he survived a football injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down for more than a year. After a series of strokes, he is not the same, he said.

Homeless man who intervened. Photo by Ted Friedman.


As incredible as what happened to Harris may seem, worse has happened in the park.
Most park founders, those who fought police over the park in 1969 are horrified and disgusted, they have told me, over what the park has become, if not movement politics as well.

One park founder is a supporter, but this founder is special. Seth Rosenfeld, who extensively researched People’s Park for his latest book puts it this way: “The park was Mike Delacour’s idea.” For Delacour the park is still a way of life. He built an unauthorized free-clothes box, Sunday, with his grand kids. The box was gone Monday.
“That was fast,” he emailed.

Breaking a law. Photo by Ted Friedman.
First Free-Box Customer. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Michael Diehl, event organizer, Sunday, has been a park loyalist, as have been a too-long list. Diehl appealed, Saturday, for smoke-free air in the park Sunday, to honor Carol Denney, a park activist, who has lobbied the university for years to ban smoking in the park. Would the air clear for Denney or would she leave out of asphyxiation?


The event was preceded by a light rain.

'Chuckles' in the rain. Photo by Ted Friedman.

When Berkeley folksinger Carol Denney arrived for her set in the park, she was making her first appearance since four years ago, she told me, when the smoke drove her away. Denney’s fans asked nearby smokers to stop and they did.

Denney about to appear. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Two Cal cops stopped to socialize with Delacour. “We’re staying away.” one cop told me. Two years ago, cops were caught up in a farce involving a nude man and a park crowd, which encircled the man to protect him from cops.

There were no incidents this year, according to a university employee. However, I saw an agitated man arguing with himself and another beating up the fountain alongside the People’s Park restrooms. This is hardly noticed.

Beating a fountain. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Hate Man who was scheduled to address his many fans, was attacked by his own bowels, he told me. “Blind Jimmy, who was emcee-ing,” called out by mike to Hate Camp, “we all hate you.” It is not true, Hate told me, “that I replied, I hear that,” (as he always responds), as it had been rumored.

These views do not represent, let alone resemble, those of publications in which my work appears.

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