A brief explanation of People’s Park

Not a bad line-up for 3 bucks.

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..

A brief explanation of People’s Park

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Not a bad line-up for 3 bucks.

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.

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The secret origin of Hate Man’s philosophy of Oppositionality!!!

Image result for "Hate Man" "New york times"

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Hate Man’s life had a weird kind of symmetry. He spent about 40 years being normal. And about 40 years being weird.

Over the years Hate Man systematically developed this whole philosophy — this whole way of life — that he dubbed “Oppositionality.”

It all started around that fabled year of 1969, when Hate Man was around 42 and he got hit by a massive mid-life crisis. Up to that point Hate Man had lived a fairly normal, conventional life, and had done all the things the way society had told him to do it. And by most measures he was a “success.” He had a prestigious job, the wife, the kids, the nice home, the whole bit. Except for one thing: he was miserable.

So he started “nutting” up, as he put it. Playing by society’s rules hadn’t worked. So he starting questioning everything society had told him. And doing the exact opposite.

Society told him he shouldn’t tell people “Fuck you I hate your guts.” So he started telling people “Fuck you I hate your guts.”
Society said men shouldn’t wear skirts and bras. So he started wearing skirts and bras.
Society said you were supposed to talk to people. So he went completely silent.
Society said you were supposed to look both ways before you crossed the street. So he started randomly running across the middle of the street.

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After he got hit by a car chasing after a frisbee in the middle of the street, and ended up in the hospital for several months with his leg in a traction, Hate Man decided that maybe society had gotten that one right. So from that point on Hate Man always looked both ways.

And that’s pretty much how Hate Man developed his unique and peculiar philosophy. By trial-and-error.

So I guess you could say he developed his philosophy more experimentally than ideologically. If something worked, he kept it. And if it didn’t work he tossed it out.

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A brief history of People’s Park from 1969 to the present

Welcome to People’s Park. Admission, free. Enter at own risk. Positively no refunds.

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People’s Park.  When something becomes heavily symbolic and iconic, it can be difficult to separate the myth from reality.  People’s Park is like that.  It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  One thing’s for sure.  People’s Park is embedded in Berkeley’s history and lore.  And it exerted a powerful effect in transforming Berkeley into the town it became.  As sort of a mecca for ’60s-style radical/liberal politics and the hippie counterculture.  The People’s Republic of Berkley, and all that.

Created in 1969 it would forever be symbolic of that whole period and all it represented.  Originally it was a vacant lot owned by the University of California.  UC Berkeley.  But, spurred on by the burgeoning wave of hippie idealism and revolutionary fervor that was sweeping the Bay Area at the time (the “Woodstock Nation” was just beginning to flex it’s muscle) The People decided to liberate The Land from The Man.  They ripped out the asphalt, planted a bunch of trees and plants.  And declared that People’s Park had been born.  “Let a thousand Parks bloom!”

Naturally, the University balked at the idea of ceding this very valuable piece of property to a bunch of rabble-rousing hippies.  But guess what?  The hippies had no intention of giving it back.  Historically, the times were exactly ripe for a confrontation between the counterculture and the mainstream culture.  The hippies versus the straights.  The “Generation Gap.”  All that.

 

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The National Guard, guarding the trees from the goddamn hippies.

Ronald Reagan, in his campaign for governor of California, had made “cleaning up the dirty hippies in Berkeley and forcing them to take a bath” (that line always got huge cheers at his campaign rallies) a key plank in his platform.  And after getting elected he made good on his promise.  He sent in the National Guard to forcibly reclaim the land.  Telegraph Avenue was blanketed with tear gas.  During the course of what became known as the People’s Park Riots, the police opened fire on the rock-throwing demonstrators, injuring many, blinding one and killing one, James Rector, a UC student who was watching the melee from the roof of the building next-door to Fred’s Market, becoming the enduring martyr of the moveme
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People’s Park instantly became a cause celeb among the counterculture.  John Lennon urged the People’s Park demonstrators to “man the barricades with flowers” during his Bed-In for Peace media campaign.  Pure grooviness.  A benefit concert for People’s Park featured the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller and Creedence Clearwater Revival (not a bad line-up for 3 bucks — 1970 prices).  Meanwhile, the famous radical activist Tom Hayden (later to become Mr. Jane Fonda) was holed up in a bunker somewhere, writing the People’s Park Liberation Manifesto, and trying to enlist the Black Panthers as sort of a guerilla army to defend the hippies and shoot down the cop helicopters that were hovering over the Park.  This was war!!  To which Black Panther leader David Hilliard famously replied:  “That’s just like you, Tom, to get a nigger to pull the trigger.”
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In the face of massive support from the Berkeley community, the University backed down.  And for the next couple of decades People’s Park would be wholly operated and maintained by the People’s Park activists.  And in the process it became a symbol of The People taking back the country from the evil corporations.  Capitalist Pigs and all that.  “Right on!”
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Periodically, the University would make overtures to reclaim the Park, only to be met by fierce opposition from the Berkeley political activists.   So it was kind of a Cold War stand-off.  Eventually, the University conceded defeat (seemingly, though trusted by nobody) and agreed to maintain People’s Park as a park.  They built bathrooms and basketball courts and over-saw the Park maintenance.
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And how did it all end?  Today, People’s Park is sort of a homeless squat campsite.  At any given moment there will be a 100 to 200 homeless people basically living in the Park.  They set up their campsites during the day.  And move out at the 10 o’clock curfew to sleep on neighboring sidewalks and doorways.
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Most of the conflicts with the police nowadays involve relatively mundane issues.  The cops will give the homeless tickets if they “leave their stuff unattended” or amass too much stuff (you’re allowed to have “as much stuff as you can carry” according to current laws).  The cops basically prune the herd to prevent the homeless from setting up permanent living structures in the Park.  Which we’d do if left to our own devices.  And the cops are constantly called in to deal with the endless fights that erupt between the drunk and drugged-out and mentally-ill that are always a part of the “homeless community” (so-called).  So it’s a little bit of a bring-down from the  heroic conflicts with The Man back in People’s Park’s glory days.
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The white rabit of People’s Park.

It’s hard to say what Berkeley thinks of People’s Park today.  I’m sure many of today’s UC students consider it an eye-sore.  A mecca of crime and drugs and weird bums.  A place they’re afraid to go in.  “They should build student housing.”  Most of today’s students were born in the 1990s.  And probably half of them are recent immigrants who’s families have only been in America for a decade or two.  So you wonder how much understanding or affinity they have for “Berkeley in the ’60s” and all that represents.
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Meanwhile, the University is itching — as always — to get all the “bums” out of the Park and develop it into something more lucrative (housing, shops, etc.).  Probably playing a waiting game.  Figuring eventually all the political activists will grow old and die.  And they’ll be able to re-claim the Park.  Bull-doze the place. And put up a commemorative plaque honoring it’s legendary history.  Teach a course about it as part of the curriculum, Berkeley-101.
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And, as ever, life in People’s Park remains a surreal experience.  Yesterday I was walking across the Park.  There was a bunch of tweakers hanging out on the lawn.  Suddenly one of them caught on fire.  Another of the tweakers grabbed the flaming tweaker and rolled him across the lawn.  Successfully extinguishing the fire.  No harm no foul.  They went on with their business.  And I trotted over to Hate Camp to hang out with Hate Man and the boys.   You have many such moments hanging in People’s Park.  Sort of  “Did I just see what I think I just saw” moments.  People’s Park.
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But ya’ know?  It’ still a beautiful park.  Full of green grass and green plants and blue skies.  In the middle of a fairly harsh urban setting.  Full of mostly gray concrete.  So I’m damn glad it’s still there.   45 years later.  People’s Park.  “Let a thousand parks bloom.”
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