The sun was setting on People’s Park so I took out my cellphone to try and get a picture of it (as you can see my cellphone sucks for these kind of shots). But as I’m clicking away one of the street people sitting at the picnic table to my right sidles over to me and says:
“Ya know,man, there are some people in this Park who would get mighty upset if they caught you taking pictures of them.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “I’ve been taking photos of the scene for 30 years. I know the score.”
Though I will tell you. I was a little annoyed by the exchange. Like I need this fellow — this guardian of People’s Park — this layer-down-of-the-rules of “the laws of the street” — like I need this fellow’s permission to take a goddamn photo of the sunset.
And one other thing (now that I’m in the mood to do a little grousing): There are people working very hard to save People’s Park. But the sad fact is, 90% of the street people who hang out in the Park all day wouldn’t lift a finger to try and save it. Though you can bet they’ll be the first to complain if it does get demolished.
And it’s because of people like the guy at the picnic table that a lot of people WANT to demolish People’s Park. In fact if People’s Park is going to survive it has to become a park shared equally by ALL the people in the community. And not just the street people that hang out there all day long.
The problem is, a lot of the street people, who are basically living in the Park all day long, start to consider it their own private property and personal turf. It’s just basic human nature, I guess. Human beings are territorial by nature. But geez!! Some of these people seem completely oblivious as to how close we are to losing People’s Park. As well as the pressing need to clean up our acts and become a welcoming presence to all the people who set foot in the Park.
Listen (as you can see from the photo I took), I’m not talking about sticking a camera in somebody’s face and taking a photo of them when they just trying to have some privacy (does this photo I posted give that impression?). But the fact is, it’s perfectly legal to take a photo of ANYBODY who’s in a public space.
A couple years ago one of the original FOUNDERS of People’s Park in 1969 came back to People’s Park. And he was taking a couple of photos of the park. When this useless crackhead got in his face, threatened to beat his ass and smash his camera, and ran him out of the park. IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE BERKELEY COMMUNITY NO LONGER SUPPORT PEOPLE’S PARK?? . . . . Crap like this gives the impression that People’s Park is no longer a public park and a public space. But the private property of the street people who hang out there all day long.
One of the great appeals of People’s Park was that it was a Berkeley icon (I’m not sure if it still is). Like Sather Gate on the campus. Tourists and other people are CONSTANTLY taking photos of Sather Gate. Do you think they have to ask the PERMISSION of all the people who happen to be walking by before they take their pictures. I don’t think so. Whether some bum who just happens to be passing by grouses about it or not.
Some of these people in People’s Park don’t seem to realize how close we are to LOSING People’s Park. And if we don’t start cleaning up our act, we ARE going to lose it.
End of sermon.