Large groups have recently been rallying at People’s Park in Berkeley to protest UC Berkeley’s plans for a sixteen story student and community member housing facility. The largest of these rallies was held in late January when a fence was erected around parts of the park. Protesters flocked to the site to voice their disapproval. UC Berkeley stated at the time that they were just going through with soil tests in those areas in preparation for building, but the community’s reaction was extremely negative. The conflict around the use of the land in which People’s Park resides has been going on for years, and with the plans for the new development finally beginning, the fight has become a major topic.
People’s Park was founded out of the radical movements of the late 1960s and was the scene of many protests and rallies for many movements. Among other issues, People’s Park held many rallies for the anti-Vietnam war and free speech movement. Along with being a gathering place for activism, People’s Park has been a place to live for many homeless people over the years and has built a rich history. The most recent conflict with the new chain link fence is similar to previous conflicts in the late ’60s around the problem of who has control over the park. The land has been owned by UC Berkeley since the park was founded, but the conflict that has taken place there has halted construction many times. The University has been met with backlash from the beginning of its planning process; protesters interrupted open houses and public meetings about the development along the way. Many community members want to preserve the rich history of People’s Park, and allow the current homeless residents to stay. While the University has plans for affordable housing in their new building, the homeless who currently live in the park will be displaced, along with the history that the park has developed.