The Hygenic (sic) Dog Food Co. factory, West Berkeley (“Health Food For Dogs”, as it (still) says on the side of the building). I took this photo with an old Pentax 67 medium format film camera more than two decades ago; the building’s still there now, looking much the same, but surrounded by creeping gentrification. I always wanted to buy the building and turn it into a cafe and bookshop (with a studio upstairs), but I never had the money back when Emeryville and West Berkeley were cheap, and now I don’t have a hope in hell of owning anything in either place.
The Occupation: Places (Part 4 of a four-part series. Previous: The People). Telegraph Avenue was something of a second home for me back then. It was easy to walk to from where I lived downtown; I did a lot of shopping up there (especially music and books); I ate and drank there a lot; and I used to help friends of mine sell jewelry, t-shirts, and photos, and pierce ears, etc., on the street. So it was depressing to see a lot of the familiar places boarded up or with smashed windows (something everyone thought was wrong, regardless of politics). And it was surprising to outsiders who’d never actually seen the place, to see just how tawdry and unfriendly People’s Park could be in real life.
The Occupation: The People (Part 3 of a four-part series. Previous: The Police; next: The Places). I recognized most of the major players, and a lot of the Telegraph regulars, even though most of them probably wouldn’t have had a clue who I was. Even some of the BPD officers were at least familiar with my face, which helped sometimes (weirdly, the police tended to treat me like a professional photographer and let me through lines, etc.). Two of the more locally-famous names showing up in the images below are Maudelle Shirek and Michael Delacour; even Rosebud Denovo’s in there if you know what you’re looking for, I think. Even during the middle of the demonstrations and troubles there was a constant stream of shoppers on Telegraph; some of the usual weekend street stalls remained open in the face of some pretty annoying disruption and sudden loss of potential customers as the street was swept of pedestrians (there’s even a wierd-looking photo of me in there somewhere minding the shop). Next »
The Occupation: The Police (Part 2 of a four-part series; previous: Background; next: The People). The police were everywhere around People’s Park. Berkeley police; Livermore police; the Highway Patrol; Albany, Richmond, Oakland police; the Alameda County tactical response squad — all with something to prove. The out-of-town cops seemed predictably vicious, out to kick some of that supposedly soft Berkeley ass (all those hippies! all those punks! — it must have seemed like cop heaven at times) and show the Berkeley cops how to really put down a riot. The Berkeley police (who’d lost control during the first hours of the riots) seemed bent on proving that their mixture of firmness and reasonably good-humoured tolerance would finally work. Once the police worked out what was happening (late Friday night, I suspect), they started using a bunch of unnerving strategies and tactics. In particular, they’d suddenly issue ambiguous orders or signals about which side of the road (for example) was OK and which was not, then almost immediately arrest anyone on what they determined was the wrong side — without giving people any time to understand the orders, let alone get across to the right side. What constituted the right side was almost always quite inscrutable […]
Berkeley People’s Park Riots, 1991 (Part 1 of a four-part series. Next: The Police). This is not a story about the 1991 People’s Park riots as such; it’s really an extended photo essay about the occupation of Berkeley in August 1991. A version of this was first published on my old Pandemonia site in 1994; this is a long-overdue aesthetic and technological update to that original version, but it hews pretty closely to the original’s content and aims. The images included here are a small selection of the photos I took that week, divided a bit arbitrarily into “Police”, “Places”, and “People”. And yes, they’re not technically very good, but they’re all I’ve got. There’s also a simple gallery to go with this essay, but the images there aren’t meant to supersede the ones here and in the next few posts. * * * I missed the first few People’s Park riots on Telegraph Avenue completely — I’d be playing cards in the evenings with friends in the Milano, and I’d emerge into the night on Telegraph and notice that there’d been another riot…. I’d feel a little stupid, looking at the glass-strewn streets, and I’d wonder how I could miss the […]