The People’s Park struggle still goes on after decades of conflict between the University of California, Regents, the City of Berkeley and the people who actually have lived in and near the park their entire lives. I believe all of these people are motivated by good intentions, and therefore it is easy for me to converse in a very positive way with all of them. The problems are manifold but when each group’s intentions are viewed from their perspective their behavior is perfectly logical and honest.
The University needs to grow and thus to serve the people of California and the world with high quality knowledge which improves the lives of everyone. The City of Berkeley needs tax revenues to provide goods and services to the residents of Berkeley, but the University isn’t required to pay taxes because it is a public organization, but it does exercise the right of eminent domain to take high quality property away from the citizens of Berkeley, to enlarge its domain. This directly impacts the local citizens in a negative way if they are not directly helped by university affairs. Over the years the university has moved its borders several blocks into what was formerly private tax-paying land and buildings. Back in the mid 1960s the South Campus people rose in rebellion at the excessive aggressions of the university in several overlapping confrontations: the anti-Vietnam War activities, the Free Speech Movement and the People’s Park confrontations. All of these were associated with peaceful argument, legal actions and with street disruptions and subsequent police actions.
The Vietnam War is now distant history to today’s students; it was a conflict of their grandparents’ generation. The Free Speech Movement is also forgotten – it was about the right to have nonprofit tables espousing student causes – and now there are perhaps 30 tables set out on the plaza every noon, but it is a largely forgotten victory for the students’ rights.
The People’s Park is the only remnant of those efforts of the 60s which is still being contested, and that is in the form of Michael Delacour and a few others still holding on to the land that the University wants. The People’s Park (at 37.866 -122.258) is 500 meters from Sather Gate, (at 37.8703 -122.2595) which was once the boundary to the university. Now the university is building yet another structure, but this one is practically hanging over this land still held sacred to local people. Probably all of the administrators who fought on the University side, like Ronald Reagan from the 60s, are dead, and so too are most of the People’s Park side of the contest. But, not all – Michael Delacour still thrives and is still holding the park for the people.
The man in the green shirt is standing where Delacour is standing in the previous photo. This is a half a mile from campus and shows just how far the university has extended its property claims into the city of Berkeley. There is considerably more even further away, most of which was taken from private citizens through legal procedures of eminent domain.
Honest people with positive motivations can still come into conflict.