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A Personal Message from Dona Spring
Berkeley City Councilwoman
Welcome to Berkeley. We are proud of our city with its intellectual and
resources, ethnic diversity, and world-renowned leadership in the areas
of environmental responsibility and social justice. At this time, there
is resurgence in citizen participation at People's Park and along Telegraph
Merchants, students and residential neighbors are working regularly to clean
up as well as to plant of flowers and community gardens. We enjoy frequent
book readings, poetry and music festivals, street fairs and farmers' markets,
in addition to the many unique restaurants and shops in the vicinity which
is close to one of the great Universities.
I first heard about People's Park in 1969 when I was a sophomore in high
school in a suburb of Los Angeles. Our class discussed why the national
guard had been called in to "handle" the protestors. By this point,
demonstrations and riots seemed a part of the American scene because of
the Viet Nam war and civil unrest particularly after the assassination of
Martin Luther King.
I thought that because of these mass movements that we would gradually bring
about a more socially fair system and stop the phenomenal destruction of
the natural environment. I thought people would just keep on protesting
for more justice as tens of thousands did around People's Park in the late
sixties and early seventies.
In the early seventies, I enrolled at UC Berkeley and got an apartment across
People's Park. The sports courts and parking lot had recently been dug up
because President Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia had been made public
and there were large demonstrations (in one of which I was billy clubbed
by a tense [and probably scared] police officer). Tear gas was dropped by
helicopter on about three different occasions on the southern part of campus.
People were trying to attend classes but they had trouble breathing and
After People's Park had been dug up again, people started making planters
out of the asphalt and planting flowers and trees. David Axelrod a.k.a.
Salty Dog was spearheading the efforts and the Bubble Lady a.k.a. Julia
Vinograd was also involved. I helped do some typing of plans/proposals for
the gardens at the park.
Almost 20 years later, riots occurred again when the University installed
the volley ball court. I remember coming out to the park after a couple
days of demonstrations. The police had used rubber bullets to quell the
demonstrators and the city manager had come within a fraction of calling
the governor to ask that the National Guard be called in to restore civil
By this time, much of the Berkeley community who resided around the campus
were angry and upset at UCB's administration's endless expansion into the
community against their objections. I had been a participant in a community
based law suit that contested the adequacy of the environmental impact report
of the 1991 UC Long Range Development Plan. Despite over $150,000 spent
on lawsuits, none of the expansion (much of it involving toxics) was stopped.
Until very recently, Peoples Park remained the only development of open
space proposed by the University administration that had been stopped. So
although many of the more conservative town's people did not participate
in the demonstrations, some were glad that people had finally tried to use
civil disobedience in protest of the University running rough shod over
However, just about everyone in the community was against the violence that
broke out and were truly sorry that the merchants had their windows broken
and inventory stolen and their businesses hurt.
In the last 4 years Peoples' Park has had more music and poetry festivals
thanks to David Nadel owner of Ashkenaz. There are more California Native
species (including endangered species) that have been planted--thanks in
large part to Lisa Stephens who I appointed to the Parks and Recreation
She is like an earth goddess who has worked tirelessly over the years to
nurture the gardens and the people who come to relax in them. The vision
of the founders of People's Park in the late sixties is coming to fruition.
It is based on a cooperative way of life based on collective gardening,
sharing of resources, and service to community.
People's Park remains a symbol of the free speech and anti-war era. On this
small plot of land thousands of people over the years have "thrown
their bodies on the gears of the odious military industrial machine".
To many, like me, this victory beacons hope to continue the struggle for
social justice and to restore our ravaged environment.