On April 20, 1969, the building of People’s Park began with 100 people, and grew to include the efforts of 1,000 by the park’s completion. Quickly, it became known as a central part of the counterculture and radicalism of Berkeley’s youth in the sixties. Now, 50 years later, People’s Park is holding celebrations of its anniversary. The two-week-long celebration of the park consists of major celebrations: one on April 13 and another to be held April 28. Additional events will occur throughout the two weeks, ranging in variety from musical performances and storytelling to activist speakers and tree-planting. This celebration comes nearly a week after Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission met in Berkeley City Hall and unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the 50th Anniversary. Commissioners Igor Tregub and Denny Han’s resolution stressed the significance of People’s Park and honored its origins, founders, and values. The discussion incorporated different suggestions from members of the public who attended, aiming to create an extensive overview of People’s Park’s history.
On April 13, Hali Hammer, a singer and songwriter, performed six original songs, including one about People’s Park. Hammer, who has been playing in the park since 1985, has helped arrange the entertainment for People’s Park’s Anniversary Celebrations for about six years, and is a regular at its weekly committee meetings.
“The significance of the 50th Anniversary is that, through all the struggle and strife, and threats to get rid of the Park, we’re still here, and we intend to stay here,” said Hammer. “People’s Park is a symbol of the power of the people not only here but worldwide.”
Max Ventura, a classical homeopath and member of the People’s Park Committee, performed a few songs at the event and spoke about the many attempts to build bathrooms at the park. She also spoke specifically about past and current threats from UC Berkeley, including the university’s decision to demolish forty trees and People’s Park’s response to replant. “UC Berkeley has always been on the attack,” Ventura said. “However, we’ve been able to keep going. People’s Park is a beacon of hope. This green space is very important to us, and this beautiful park is for everybody,” he continued.
Poet, singer and award-winning lyricist Carol Denney noted the frustration of the park’s regulars towards Chancellor Carol Christ, who wants to build new student housing on the park. Denney said one reason the park is organizing is to remind Christ of its historical and cultural significance.
To keep the park’s spirit alive, Hammer encouraged more people to visit People’s Park. “The most important thing I’d like [BHS] students to know is, don’t be afraid to go to the park. Granted, there are some people with problems, but the majority of the people in the park are really friendly,” she said.