“The first time I played here, there was no park here yet,” Stevie Barsotti, the frontman of a band called Dapper Shindig, said to a crowd who had gathered in People’s Park on April 13. “The third time was when we tore down the fence, and that was really fun!”
The ghosts of People’s Park still haunt us today, 50 years after the police and National Guard met unarmed demonstrators with overwhelming firepower. Restless spirits still demand to be heard, and seem to speak with special power in the springtime, bringing to mind the spring of 1969 when the Park was created. It was the very springtime of our generation’s struggles for peace and justice.
Another milestone came and went on September 26, 2017. It would have been the 81st birth- day of Berkeley icon and People’s Park denizen Hateman, also known as Mark Hawthorn. A group of about 35 people showed up at People’s Park to remember him at his spot at the top of the Park, reminiscing on his lifelong philosophy of “oppositional caring.”
At 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 15, 1969 250 California Highway Patrol officers arrived at newly constructed People’s Park, while a helicopter buzzed overhead. They cleared a few people who were sleeping on the fresh sod and put up a chain link fence. As the sun rose, Berkeley’s newest green space, a symbol of an alternative vision of society, was enclosed behind a perimeter of state police officers.