This is a pre-publication launch for The Battle for People’s Park, due out mid-month from Berkeley’s own Heyday Books. Get an early copy, and meet author Tom Dalzell. Join us, fifty years after, for this “only in Berkeley” event!
In eyewitness testimonies and hundreds of remarkable photographs, The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969 commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most searing conflicts that closed out the tumultuous 1960s: the Battle for People’s Park. In April 1969, a few Berkeley activists planted the first tree on a University of California-owned, abandoned city block on Telegraph Avenue. Hundreds of people from all over the city helped build the park as an expression of a politics of joy. The University was appalled, and warned that unauthorized use of the land would not be tolerated; and on May 15, which would soon be known as Bloody Thursday, a violent struggle erupted, involving thousands of people. Hundreds were arrested, martial law was declared, and the National Guard was ordered by then-Governor Ronald Reagan to crush the uprising and to occupy the entire city. The police fired shotguns against unarmed students. A military helicopter gassed the campus indiscriminately, causing schoolchildren miles away to vomit. One man died from his wounds. Another was blinded. The vicious overreaction by Reagan helped catapult him into national prominence. Fifty years on, the question still lingers: Who owns the Park?