‘Memorializing our history’: People’s Park mural rededicated to Berkeley’s ongoing social movements

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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A recently restored mural next to People’s Park was rededicated Sunday to preserve the historical significance of the park and celebrate the community’s ongoing struggle for social justice.

The mural, painted in 1976 on a wall adjacent to People’s Park, depicts scenes of revolution from Berkeley’s history. On the left-hand side, it portrays Mario Savio standing on a police car and then progresses to a scene of the anti-war movement and illustrations of the Black Panthers.

Osha Neumann, the designer of the mural, said he painted this depiction of the city’s history in 1976 — the bicentennial of the American Revolution — to provide a representation of a time when “a better world was possible.”

“People really had a spirit of willingness to make that kind of revolution, and I thought it was important to preserve that,” Neumann said.

Restoration efforts began in July, and the restored center portion of the mural was revealed Sunday, Neumann said. The painting was completely refurbished, almost to its original condition, with the addition of a few small details. Besides some graffiti, Neumann said the community and people in the streets have been “remarkably” protective of this mural.

At the unveiling, several attendees spoke about the importance of the mural and People’s Park. Speakers recited poems, sang songs and touched on the campus proposal for housing development in the park. Berkeley resident Carol Denney said at the event that People’s Park has been a city landmark for 35 years.

“The University of California has (nine) available sites for housing,” Denney said. “People’s Park is one of them, but People’s Park is the only one of them that is a city landmark for its cultural and historical significance.”

Event attendee and architect Andus Brandt said he is not completely opposed to building on People’s Park, but wants to have influence over the campus plans before they are implemented.

“I’m worried that they’re going to wipe out the memory and the history of People’s Park completely,” Brandt said.

Brandt said he was in Berkeley in 1969 during the protest widely known as “Bloody Thursday,” in which people protested the university’s seizure of People’s Park. He said he was standing on Channing Way, taking pictures, when police from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office shot him in both legs.

The “Bloody Thursday” riot is depicted in the mural through images of the clash between gas-masked police officers and protesters.

When looking at these visuals after the unveiling, Berkeley City Council District 7 candidate Aidan Hill commented in reference to the park that “within this land, we have the tools to build a better society.”

“This is a living place,” Hill said. “This (mural) is memorializing our history and the future of what’s to come.”

Contact Sabina Mahavni at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.

A previous version of this article may have implied that Aidan Hill is no longer a UC Berkeley student. In fact, they are not currently enrolled at UC Berkeley but intend to resume their studies on campus in the future.