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Peoples Park, Berkeley Riots 1969

Janine Wiedel | United States

The history of People's Park still written in the wall (taken on my return visit in 1997)

In June 1969 students and local residents of Berkeley occupied a vacant piece of land belonging to the University of California, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, and home to a radical anti-authoritarian political tradition. Hundreds of students and local residents occupied and worked the land. The new park was alive with rebellion, energy and hope. <>

Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California, stepped in calling the campus "a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters and sex deviants". He considered the park a direct leftist challenge to the property rights of the University and took the opportunity to fulfil his campaign promise. Two hundred and fifty Highway Patrol and Berkeley police officers moved in. They cleared an eight-block area and constructed a perimeter fence. Anger grew. Police retaliated with tear gas and shotguns, firing indiscriminately at retreating protesters. One man was killed and at least 128 Berkeley residents were admitted to hospitals for head trauma and shotgun wounds. By the evening, Governor Reagan had called in 2,700 National Guardsmen, banned public assembly and put a curfew on the town. Over 482 people were arrested.

Fifty years have passed since I took these photographs but the importance of the event/issues has not faded. Today while the land is legally owned by the University, it has remained a public park and is a tribute to the activist students and community of 60s Berkeley.

Janine Wiedel  www.wiedel-photo-library.com


"People's Park, Berkeley Riots 1969" published by Cafe Royal Books, London

contact: wiedelphoto@googlemail.com

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