The Fight for People’s Park Today

People's Park in Berkeley, California. Image source: David Abercrombie via Flickr.

On Thursday, January 4, police invaded People’s Park in Berkeley, California, closing access to the area. Around midnight, residents of the park, students, and other community members were violently pushed out by hundreds of police – university police, Alameda County sheriffs, California state police and others. (University officials have refused to say how many police were deployed. But, University dining hall managers were prepared to feed up to 1,400 police.)

Violence was unleashed, most of the remaining trees were cut down, people’s tents and belongings, the gardens and the community kitchen were destroyed. During the police seizure of the park, seven people were arrested. In the days following, roads surrounding the Park were closed. And the Park was fortified with shipping containers brought in and stacked two-high around the Park. This is the same kind of wall that has been put up on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The University of California Berkeley claims ownership of the park and says this action was necessary in order to take the land back to build housing for students, despite the availability of a number of other sites. The University, which markets itself as being the birthplace of the radical Sixties and the Free Speech Movement, is again trying to erase this very history.

While often praising student activism and democracy, it didn’t want to put that to the test with this generation of students, especially with renewed activism in opposition to the U.S.-backed, genocidal attack on the people of Gaza. University officials picked the time when most students were on winter holiday break and not on campus, to make its move to destroy the Park. The University acted illegally, transforming the park into a construction zone, while the California Supreme Court is still reviewing a case that would forbid building in the park altogether.

The situation at People’s Park reflects larger issues within our society – police are used, not to protect people’s lives and decisions, but to defend profit and private property. And the developers who may get to build housing on the Park will profit greatly from the decimation of the only public park near the University. Local government and university administrations will change or violate their own laws and make decisions that align more with corporate profits than with the majority of people’s needs. In the process of destroying the Park, the rights of unhoused residents, as well as environmental concerns, were completely disregarded by those in positions of power.

It will depend on us, students and other community members working together to win the long fight to defend People’s Park, and ultimately, fight for a society where we have true democratic decisions over  universities, parks, and housing. We can learn from the past, connect with those around us, and use our experiences on the path towards building a different world!  For more information about People’s Park go to: