Page One

Berkeley's Telegraph Ave. Saturday Demonstration:
It was Small, But It Re-writes Berkeley Street Politics

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday February 09, 2011 - 10:57:00 AM
Gina Sasso, Michael Delacour, Angelina,  Ann Fagan Ginger and others stage a small demonstration on Telegraph.
Ted Friedman
Gina Sasso, Michael Delacour, Angelina, Ann Fagan Ginger and others stage a small demonstration on Telegraph.

In a dueling megaphones cacophony last Saturday in Berkeley between Jesus freaks on Haste Street and Michael Delacour demonstrating outside Moe's Books, a new chapter in Berkeley street politics emerged. 

Delacour had called for the demo the preceding week to focus on beefs with such Berkeley businesspersons as Doris Moskowitz of Moe's and Craig Becker of the Caffe Mediterraneum. 

Calling the Med "a good place to meet in," but saying it’s profiting from a local community it doesn’t support, Delacour denounced Teley merchants who have blamed the park for their declining revenues. 

Eight persons demonstrated. According to Delacour, a large solidarity demonstration at U.N. Plaza in San Francisco in support of Egyptian dissidents may have cut his attendance. 

Ann Fagan Ginger, 85, a well-known east bay civil liberties attorney opened the event. Although her eyesight has failed, she saw into the hearts of passersby, urging them to see how U.S. imperialism in the Middle East was about to ruin their lives. 

Moe's recently mounted a nostalgic set of handsomely mounted 60s demonstration photos of Telegraph Avenue when "the whole world was watching." 

One of those photos pictures a demo crowd massed in front of Moe's, the world famous emporium of rare and used books. 

In another of those topsy-turvy significations with which history surprises itself, the current demo was against Moe's. That's as in, “against”. 

How could the flip be flopping this way? 

Moe's founder, Moe Moskowitz (d.1997), was a high-profile Teley businessman known for his comedic in-store performances (his cigar always stole the show) and his liberal to radical politics. Moskowitz was a founder, along with Fred Cody, of the Berkeley Free Clinic. 

According to his fans and acquaintances, Moe hosted free speech movement planning meetings on the balcony of his store, often contributing to the deliberations. 

At one point, when FSM protestors were gassed in the streets, he invited them to seek shelter in his store, according to Julia Vinograd, 62, who said she was there. Always irascible, Moe denounced them for not sheltering themselves sooner. 

Fast forward to Michael Delacour, 72, who presented the first Berkeley community plan to rescue what is now People's Park from becoming a parking lot and playing field and went on to lead demonstrations against the university. 

Saturday, Delacour encamped in a 1967 Volvo, with his 3 year old granddaughter, wife Gina Sasso, 8 protesters and a bull horn in front of Moe's to protest--among other issues—Doris Moscowitz, 46, Moe's daughter, who is now at the helm of the fabled store. 

Say it isn't so, Mike. 

But it's all true. Doris Moskowitz has gone her own way. She publicly (store window placard) endorsed defeated candidate, George Beier, who ran against incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington in the recent District 7 race. Beier had advocated major crackdowns in People's Park and on the avenue. 

Her father, who coined the phrase "Some People's Park," often spoke out against alleged drug use in the park which he claimed was showing up in his store doorway. 

According to Delacour, when the subject of the park was raised with Moe, "Moe was bad enough, but Doris is a reactionary." 

Two nights before she was demonstrated against, Doris was leafing through sheet music in the store as this reporter approached. When told that the reporter had heard her sing in a student musical, she chose a copy of a handsome sheet, a Gershwin song, and broke out in, "Oh no, they can't take that away from me." 

Afterwards, she said, "Moe's is in business to sell literacy," and by implication, not politics. 

Delacour's granddaughter Angelina, 3, may have the last word. When she eschewed the demonstration Saturday for the world of Moe's, Gina, 49, her grandmother, located the politically incorrect child in Moe's children's section, where she was being hosted by Doris Moskowitz, referred to by Delacour as Mz. Moe. 

According to Delacour, friendly words were exchanged by all. 

And so it goes, in the all's well that ends well of the new Berkeley street politics. 


Ted Friedman covers south side issues for the Planet.