Monday, May 16, 2011

The impact of Berkeley’s People’s Park riots on a 12-year-old

A group of well over 200 kids who grew up in the very tight-knit Claremont-Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley during the 60’s have converged in the digital age and are having the most amazing and enjoyable dialog on Facebook!  It’s so immersive that quite a few of us are probably not dedicating our full attention to our jobs these days… and we’ve even seriously discussed meeting in person later this summer – possibly here, at the Claremont Hotel, where many of our shared neighborhood memories take place:


In an effort to find memorabilia from those days, I ventured into our garage this morning, climbing over crates and digging deep into bins, where I finally found my diary from 6th grade.  There was plenty in there to make me giggle (my god, was I boy crazy at the young age of 12!), but THIS really gave me pause from a much more worldly perspective.  When I noticed the date of the entry, 42 years ago yesterday, I couldn’t help but let out a quiet gasp…

Peoples Park

It says:

“Thursday, May 15, 1969 (Very important): Dear Diary, About 2 months ago the hippies around Telegraph (Avenue) built a park for themself's (sic). They got some of the Universities (sic) land and started building swings sets, a pool, a fish pool, and a lawn. They were almost done about 2 weeks ago. A lot of people came a gave money for materials. They worked for their park. Then today the police came and put a fence around it 'cause it wasn't their property. There was a huge riot and more than 100 people were hurt. Even the National Gard (sic) came! I don't like Berkeley anymore. Carol"

I remember those tumultuous years in Berkeley so well and they absolutely shaped who I have become (even though we moved away by the next summer).  I had no idea in 1969 how unique the energy in Berkeley really was, thinking that the whole world did things like collectively observe a monthly moratorium in protest of the Vietnam War by basically shutting down an entire city.  How wrong I was!

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1 comment:

Lynn said...

Dennis' mother worked at Cal and he said in the late 60s sometimes she'd be home when he got back from school and he'd just casually ask if she'd been sent home because the campus had been teargassed again. And that was usually the reason.

Different times.

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