My Father’s 1969 People’s Park Protest Photos

I was digging through my dad, August Maggy’s old photos and found these great pictures of the People’s Park protest that took place in Berkley, California 45 years ago in 1969. I don’t know who took these photos, but they’re darn cool.

But first, a little background on the People’s Park protest to lend some context to these photos:

in 1969. In the midst of an era of social upheaval when students all over the country were bucking the trends of stodgy old universities, UC Berkley in Berkley, California had some land that they had left unimproved for several years. Local merchants thought it was ugly, so they, along with some other locals turned it into a public space in the form of a park. They dubbed it “People’s Park.”

Not everybody in the country was caught up in this anti-establishment fervor. In fact, most weren’t. To them, these protests and upheavals were disrupting their every day lives. Ronald Reagan was Governor of California at the time and ran on the promise that he would reign in these “communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants,” that were taking over California’s college campuses. This was his chance to make good on that promise.

So one day, he had the Alameda Police fence off the park. The people who gave their time and resources to make this happen were, obviously, a little peeved. So they protested.

Governor Regan, determined to put a stop to these “communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants,” sends the National Guard down to keep order. An Arab-Israeli Conflict conference demonstration turned into a protest against the state’s actions against this park on what became known as “Bloody Thursday.” National Guardsmen and police from various jurisdictions used tear gas, batons, and riot gear to beat back the crowd who began peacefully protesting, but resorted throwing rocks and bottles after the assaults by the lawmen began.

My Dad, who was a reporter for the Berkley Gazette, was covering the story. His long hair and military surplus helmet (to protect from flying rocks, bottles, and other debris) made the police suspect he was a protester. He refused to leave on the basis that his press pass allowed him access. The police did not take kindly to this “display of defiance,” and beat him with batons.

He actually won an award from the organizers in recognition of his unbiased coverage of the incident. It was a piece of the fence mounted on a trophy stand. One of his prized possessions.

This incedent was a cluster-mess that went on at various levels of intensity for three weeks until it eventually subsided. People’s Park would, eventually, just be a park. Although these days it’s mostly inhabited by panhandlers, homeless people, and druggies; it is a testament to the “power of the people.”

So enjoy these photos. If you use them, please credit August Maggy and link back to this blog. (Click to view full size)

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