A street person in People’s Park decides to “educate” me about “the rules of the streets”


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.

The sun sets on People’s Park. And maybe in more ways than one.

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.


5 thoughts on “A street person in People’s Park decides to “educate” me about “the rules of the streets”

  1. Therein lies the problem: some homeless people, not having much in the first place, decide to “claim” real estate that legally, and logically as well, belongs to everyone. “Straights” overwhelmingly believe that a park belongs to everyone, and they understandably don’t like being bullied out of public space. This leads to an “us versus them” attitude which is not good for anyone but ends up being worse for the homeless.

  2. I guess everything would be different if you just said it. I means say I’m just taking a sunset or whatever pic you were taking. NO NEED NO DRAMA. People from streets don’t want to be photograph and it’s their Right though.
    And yes is for persons like you that the park is in danger now.
    Don’t need your DRAMA watch all the facts and everything around before you talk.
    So, yes is not a polite way to express them selves but that is what they have. Hope you understand that.
    If you just explain your self everything is ok but if you come with that attitude…don’t think it would be different.
    Peoples Park is for the community though, just be sure to make the right adjustments

    1. I wasn’t the one “coming with that attitude.” I was just taking a photo of the sunset. In a public park. And for the record, it ISN’T their “right” to not be photographed. It’s perfectly legal to take photos of ANYONE in a public place. Generally, of course, I always ask somebody for their permission before I take their photo. Just out of common consideration and good manners. But say I’m taking a general photo of Telegraph Avenue. I’m sure as hell not going to ask every pedestrian who happens to be passing by if it’s OK if they’re in the picture. It would be impossible to EVER take photos of ANY public spaces if that were the case. . . And my blog was mostly aimed at the deeper issue. People’s Park is on the verge of being DESTROYED. And a big part of the reason for that is because of the ATTITUDE (not of me but) of so many of the people who hang out in the park all day long. That’s consistently sited as a reason for the declining popularity of People’s Park among a significant portion of the Berkeley population. And if we don’t change OUR attitude, we are going to lose the entire park.

  3. Street people first need to be spayed and neutered and regularly given fresh flea collars. I often get threatened the same way whenever I try to enjoy the natural surroundings. This started when Reagan shut down the mental institutions and It’s been a race to the bottom ever since. We need basic income. Recreational drugs need to be free and available like government cheese. We’ll save money on infrastructure and when idiots OD. They won’t have to beg, borrow or steal and the trash will take itself out. Gangs will no longer have a way to make money and have no reason to push drugs on kids. If everyone in your park constantly takes facial pictures and posts them online with dates and what happens, the police will then have evidence when trying to prosecute the troublemakers. If I received that comment I would snap his face and say “I’m mighty upset with what happened to this park – I’ll go see what the police think” Low-life will scramble for cover when the lights come on (like roaches.) The reason your park is in danger is the same as the whole country – taxes of the 1% slashed for greed and there is no money to even upkeep the dilapidated infrastructure we currently have. Population will not self-limit so the only hope for sustainability is more pandemics to cull the herd. If you are going to mingle with the wildlife I suggest you carry bear repellent.

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