I guess the thing that made People’s Park such a historical icon was the timing of it.
There had been this sort of underground counterculture movement that had been bubbling under the surface of American society since the Beats in the ’50s, to Kesey and the proto-hippies in the early ’60s. But it wasn’t until around 1967 with “the Summer of Love” and Sgt Pepper that the whole thing exploded into the mainstream. And it kept building with this force — this new generation that wanted to go in a very different direction than the previous generation. And it wasn’t just the peace-and-love-and-drugs of the hippies, and the old school bohemians of the Beats, but there was also the political factions — the liberals and the radicals and the Civil Rights movement and especially the anti-Vietnam war movement. Along with the gay rights movement and the feminist movement. And the whole thing loosely became known back then as The Movement.
And to large degree it polarized American society. You were either a straight or a freak. And it became known as the Generation Gap. One side wanting to take society in one direction, and the other side wanting to take it in another direction. And it was practically a civil war. The first real battle of this war was at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 where riots broke out between the anti-war activists and the police.
And then in 1969 a similar war broke out in Berkeley when Governor Ronald Reagan sent in the National Guard to expell the hippies from People’s Park which they had recently converted from a vacant lot into a park. And many people got shot and one got killed during the People’s Park riots. And People’s Park ended up as an enduring symbol of the emerging ’60s counterculture. Which during that period was at the very heart of the American zeitgeist. A couple months later there would be the Woodstock Festival and the whole emerging Woodstock Generation (so-called).
So People’s Park was like at the epicenter of this whole crazy cultural explosion.