Berkeley Is Collapsing in on Itself

In 1969, five years after the famous “Free Speech” movement that rocked the University of California at Berkeley and set off the 1960s student protest era, Berkeley officials hatched a plan to develop a piece of campus property, then languishing as a vacant space employed as a parking lot. Student dissidents rebelled at this outrageous effrontery of the bourgeois establishment. Riots erupted. Local officials sent in county sheriff’s deputies, known around campus as “Blue Meanies.’’ A dangerous escalation ensued, with officers assaulted and cops responding with birdshot. A student was killed; scores were wounded. California Governor Ronald Reagan dispatched the National Guard. Order finally was restored, but troops stayed for two weeks. The “People’s Park,” as students called it, remained under 24-hour guard indefinitely.

The students may have lost the battle, but they won the controversy. The site was converted into a community-maintained park, though still formally owned by the university. The development project died. The university lost…

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