Peace rang throughout Berkeley Tuesday morning.
At 11 a.m. on a small outdoor plaza at the Civic Center Building, Mayor Shirley Dean sounded a newly-installed, 450-pound peace bell made of melted guns confiscated by Bay Area police departments.
“This is not a groundbreaking, it’s a groundcalming,” said Dean at the installation ceremony. “It symbolizes not only the community’s hope for peace but the community’s desire to get guns off the street.”
Metal sculptor Bruce Hasson, who maintains a studio in Berkeley, crafted the bell in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.
It sat on display outside the San Francisco War Memorial Building for a month before returning to Hasson’s studio.
In the last year, UC Berkeley has donated $3,000 to the city toward the purchase of the bell, and hundreds of other Berkeley residents have contributed an additional $17,000.
Dean is working to raise another $20,000 to complete the purchase of the sculpture and create a display listing the contributors and those they are honoring with their donation. The mayor on Tuesday asked Berkeley residents to help by donating money.
“I want to thank the mayor and the city of Berkeley and the people of Berkeley for making this a reality,” said Hasson. “I can’t think of a better place to have it than Berkeley.”
Hasson, who has also created bell sculptures in Italy and Sonoma County to commemorate the death of an American boy killed by Italian bandits, said he came up with the idea during a conversation with an Italian friend. Bells play a significant role in Italian culture, Hasson said.
Dean’s chief of staff Jennifer Drapeau said the city is thinking about adding olive trees and outdoor furniture to the display.
“It will be a wonderful place to sit and have lunch and think about peace,” Drapeau said.
“I hope this vivid monument will remind all of us of the many lives lost to gun violence and our ultimate goal of a safer, less violent America,” said Dean. “Each ring of the peace bell will resonate as a call for peace in our world.”
The city will hold a more official dedication ceremony once it raises the final $20,000 and puts the contributors’ display in place.