New: As People's Park Braces for U.C. Takeover, "Wing-Nut" Supporters Bask in Sun, Dance--Marking Park's 43rd Birthday
Ever since the university bulldozed parts of People's Park in December, and construction cranes from the Edith Head dormitory across the street towered over the park symbolizing the university's encroachments, park supporters have feared the worst.
The worst would be a parking lot, which the present community Shangri-La was for a few years in the late Sixties before it erupted in war.
A crowd of 140 park supporters put its fears aside Sunday, dancing until dusk to stirring music from one of the best musical programs in years.
An event organizer, Arthur Fonseca concluding the event noted, "Berkeley is noted for its wing-nut politics, but today I saw wing nuts having fun. I saw you having fun." it sounded like an accusation.
As sun sank in "Hate Camp,” Ace Backwards a renowned Berkeley freak and homeless artist, whose life has become his art, said that the performance by singer-guitarist Phoenix had moved him to tears. "On a scale of ten, I'd rate the day a twelve," said the enthusiastic Backwards.
Backwards' cohort in park philosophy, Hate Man was formally welcomed back to the park from the stage by Fonseca, celebrating Hate's return after his stay-away order was lifted. Hate and Fonseca shoulder-pushed before the amused crowd. The shoulder push is a key maneuver in Hate's trademark inter-personal communications.
Michael Diehl, a community organizer at B.O.S.S., a community self-sufficiency program, gave a brief talk on behalf of preserving the park, but the festivities were sunny not sulky. Diehl spent the afternoon dancing.
Ian Saxton, 30, a UCB PhD candidate in music, said: "amazing musicians, tasty food, diverse people, beautiful weather, a perfect occasion for occupying the park in the name of saving its grand legacy as a progressive haven."
The food was prepared on the spot by Food Not Bombs, which has been feeding the park since 1992.
Conspicuously absent was Michael Delacour, a park founder, who has attended every park commemoration for nearly half a century. But his wife, Gina Sasso, who died last year, was remembered. Delacour, who is being relentlessly stalked, was "on vacation" in an undisclosed location, according to friends.
Julia Vinograd, a veteran of the war for People's Park tried unsuccessfully to launch some bubbles, as Bubble Lady, but her high-tech plastic bubble bottle clogged.
Rose Reiman, 37, a local poet and Occupier noted, "today was an inspiring chance for those of us who wish to change the world to see what we have in common with those who walked this path before us."
Fonseca said that preserving the park was made difficult by the university's park policies. "We have to be constantly vigilant," he said. "Every ten years they start something. After constant pressure from them, and they're paid [we're not], people pull their heads back in their shells…of course there's burn-out.
The People's Park Anniversary Committee has a bank account, but there's no money in it."
According to park activist Carol Denney, who painstakingly investigated the university's park budget, the bulldozing in December was only phase 1 of a $220,000 three-phase project, which continues to be conducted in complete secrecy. A university spokesperson has said phase 2 will be additional park lighting, which has already begun.
People's Park is an official city landmark. Denney will introduce a proposal at Berkeley's Landmarks Preservation Commission monthly meeting Thursday, 7p at the North Berkeley Senior Center, to expand protections of park historic grounds and artifacts.
The music that made us dance was contributed by Antioquia, Air and Blue, Synergy, All Nations Singers, Wubakia, and Mana Maddy. Maddy's lead singer, Maddy Streicek, thanked the park for "being here."
But for how long?
Planet reporter Ted Friedman, recently dubbed the "voice of the South side" by a well-known Teley businessman came close to dancing but just did a lot of swaying.