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Peace-War Melodrama Debuts in Berkeley's People's Park 42nd Anniversary Entertainment; Easter and Weather Attack Teley Street Fest

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday April 26, 2011 - 11:46:00 AM

Easter Sunday and bad morning weather threatened to attack this year's 42nd anniversary of the battle for People's Park in 1969 and take out Teley's "Last Weekends Festival" too.

If the cold 15mph wind and sometimes hard rain had continued into the afternoon, People's Park would have been slogged and sound amplifiers driving the Telegraph Ave. fest would have been blown by rain, according to the event's organizer.

The People's Park amps and onstage entertainment were tented. But park revelers would have sunk in 'quickmud,' according to park sources familiar with the park's legendary water drainage problems.

The day was somewhat saved when weather changed its mind. Easter doesn't do change. The fair's organizer, an avenue head shop owner, joked that he'd emailed the Easter bunny requesting weather change. The bunny came through. 

Nevertheless, the south side event was not as well attended as popular past street fairs, according to some street vendors on Telegraph. 

Easter may have lowered attendance, according to vendors, who said the scary morning weather was also a factor. They questioned the decision to compete with Easter when a lot of parents are pre-occupied fooling with eggs. 

Another vendor questioned the wisdom of scheduling two events—Park versus Teley—for the same weekend. 

Yet another theory, from a security officer: competing fairs in the city. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, two major fairs drew thousands to the city Sunday. 

Berkeley's Spring street fair on Telegraph, in its third year, was organized by Al Geyer, 66, owner of Annapurna, an avenue head shop founded in 1969—the same year as the People's Park riots and the impetus for Sunday's People's Park celebration. 

Geyer acknowledged that this year's avenue fair had been reined in if not rained on. 

A Teley streetfair last spring drew as many as 4,000 and attracted mainstream media, according to Geyer. This year it will have to settle for low attendance and the Planet, according to no one in particular. 

An enthusiastic, if not overflowing, park crowd of more than 100 taking in the sun, free food, and each other stayed on until near dusk for some kick-ass Indy bands. Avenue fair-goers were wowed by great bands, the back-by-demand bucking bull, and an aerialist playing with fire. 

Park festivities were kicked off by Gilbert Blacksmith, of the Lacota tribe in full Indian dress who performed a high spirited Indian dance—accompanied by Indian chants and drumming. 

As his set was ending, he invited park early birds to join him in a circle dance. 

Before he left, he addressed the crowd with a plea for peace urging everyone to be good citizens and follow the laws of the land. "Our planet is running out of time," he said. Afterwards, he made it clear that each of us is "running out of time." 

Had he been reading the lurid People's Park stories in the Planet and decided to tame the park? Nope; he said he had simply communed with the universe that morning and was relaying a message from "the great unknown." 

Sound like peace? 

Free food in the park was courtesy of Food Not Bombs, but Zachary Running Wolf Brown, 47, "dropped a bomb,"—his words— of his own while introducing the park's first performer, Phoenix, a member, along with Running Wolf, in the Blackfeet tribe whom Brown—in a humor aside—noted was a "pretty Indian," unlike Brown. 

Then Running Wolf dropped his bomb. The tree sitting protest against the university would resume when "the students leave" for summer break, according to Running Wolf. 

Bombs are used in wars. 

Wolf, a former mayoral protest candidate who is running again, honored an absent Matt Dodt, the previous tree-sitter. Dodt, 53, could not attend the park event because he is observing a three year stay-away-from-the-university order which he intends to challenge July 15 when he faces misdemeanor charges related to the tree-sit. 

After three months in a tree in the park, Dodt was hauled from his perch by a U.C. crane after poking a counter protester in the hand with a "campers" tool. Counter-protesters claimed to represent the opinion in the park that the tree-sit was counter-productive to the park. 

Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny saving the day, an aerialist playing with fire, and a dancing Indian bearing a message of peace to People's Park. Great vibes, top-flight Indy bands, and sun, if not son. And oh yes, a war cry from Running Wolf. 

Berkeleyans and guests doing what Berkeley does best—war and peace melodramas. 




Ted Friedman reports for the Planet from the Southside.