BERKELEY, Calif. - A group of advocates opposing the development of People's Park in Berkeley gathered on Sunday for a day of "participatory painting, music and poetry" alongside the historic patch of land that is currently walled off by industrial cargo containers.
The group shut down a portion of Bowditch Street and painted a large mural there that covered just about half of it, designed by artist David Solnit.
The mural reads, "There are many hearts buried at People's Park" and is painted in bright reds, yellows, greens and blues. A black, white and gray portion of the mural depicts a bulldozer threatening the colorful message.
The event was organized by the people behind the website www.peoplespark.org, which collects historical photos of the locale, reminisces about its heyday in the 1960s and its continuing legacy, and opposes what it calls "UC's War on People's Park," due to the University of California at Berkeley's plans to build housing at the site.
The park, which began in 1967 as the spontaneous beautification of a vacant industrial lot by thousands of volunteer activists, is now unrecognizable.
About 160 double-stacked cargo containers now rim the park, with openings sealed by steel plates. The giant wall will remain until construction is completed on the new housing project.
A developer will build units for very-low income and formerly unhoused people on a portion of the site, the university said. Plans include the preservation of more than 60% of the site for public green space and a historic memorial.
Lisa Teague is a formerly unhoused Berkeley resident who took part in Sunday's festivities who has been involved in trying to save the park from development since 2018.
"I got housed in the neighborhood in 2011 after being homeless," said Teague. "The community really helped me when I first moved in, I wasn't doing so great. So I try to give back when I can."
Teague said all sorts of people came out on Sunday for the painting and celebration of the park.
"It was a very diverse group -- students, people who have been saving the park for 50 years and people who are just joining in the struggle," Teague said.
The paint used to create the mural isn't very permanent and will gradually disappear due to the weather and other effects, according to the organizers.
The event wasn't without a little bit of drama. According to Teague, the security that has been hired to monitor the site 24/7 was not amused when some artists began to paint the cargo containers.
Police were called and drove down Bowditch Street, knocking over at least one sign and they allegedly "came close to hitting one of the people standing there," Teague said.
No one was arrested or injured.
In the meantime, a stalwart group of park adherents will continue to make their presence known.
"It was a beautiful day and we think that the mural will brighten the area," said Teague.