Wednesday, May 6, 2009

People's Park-40th Anniversary Part 2

You have a duty to this community. It is in your hands to determine whether it will turn to tearing down or building up, street fighting or a new vocationalism. No matter what your beneficent motives, inflexible paternalism doesn't work in the ghetto and it won't work here.

We will be surprised if your intramural field is ever actualized unless it has the support of the people. We wonder at your lack of realism. The spirit that built People's Park is stronger than gas and cops. It is even stronger than universities.

As followers of Jesus, we are committed to stand with that spirit, the spirit of the poor and alienated trying to create a new world on the vacant lots of the old.

Rev. Richard York, May 15, 1969, Open letter to Chancellor Heynes, Sproul Plaza Rally

Rev. York read this letter with a few modifications at the rally to save People's Park on May 15, 1969,in Sproul Plaza. The letter was written by York, Anthony Nugent and Jock Brown, and approved by the Free Church board of trustees.

Dan Siegel, president-elect of the student body, followed York's statement, telling the crowd to go down and take back the park. This led to the confrontation between protesters and police known as Bloody Thursday. The next few weeks were tense. Helicopters dropped tear gas on the campus and the community that drifted into elementary schools and hospitals.

The Free Church assisted with emergency medical care and a bail fund. Bail was set extremely high, averaging $800 per person. The Free Church received donations of around $50,000. Each day the checks and money were picked up at the Church, brought up to Jock Brown's house and counted by his wife and children. All the change collected in large pots had to be coin wrapped. Then they took the money to the Bank of America, where they were allowed to deliver it directly to an official. The church also held the tools for the second People's Park, now Ohlone Park.

An estimated 30,000 people marched peacefully past the Park on Memorial Day. Friday. May 30, 1969, led by members of the Free Church. The National Guard was withdrawn. The active role of the Free Church over People's Park led to a withdrawal of support by mainline church community.

For more information on the park, see the People's Park time line. Additional images from our collection on People's Park are temporarily online, part of a California Local History Digital Resources Project. Later this year they will be part of Calisphere. For further information, see the finding aid or contact Special Collections at 510/649-2523,

Special thanks to Terri Compost -- historian, gardener and author of the forthcoming book, People's Park: Still Blooming (see

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