Remembering “Bloody Thursday:” 1969 People’s Park Riot

In observance of People’s Park’s 48th anniversary, we are reprinting our front-page story about the “Bloody Thursday” riot over the embattled park on May 15, 1969. Borne out of protest against the university’s plans to turn the park into an athletic field, the clash between demonstrators and police left one person dead and dozens injured, and prompted then-governor Ronald Reagan to declare a state of emergency in Berkeley.  

This story was first published in the May 16, 1969 issue of The Daily Californian. It has been edited for clarity. 

By Joe Pichirallo

A peaceful noon rally and march to protest the University’s seizure of People’s Park erupted into a brutal day-long battle between police and demonstrators here yesterday.

Fifty-eight people were hospitalized and by the end of the day tear gas had penetrated the entire south campus area.

Police, openly brandishing shotguns, fired birdshot into surging crowds of demonstrators. The blood streaming down the faces of participants and observers was not the result of clubbings, but was caused by shot from police guns.

Late last night, Commanding General Glenn Ames of the California National Guard said he was calling up a “substantial number” of National Guardsmen, who would be moved into staging areas around Berkeley during the night “prepared to furnish whatever military support might be required.”

Twenty-five people were arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanors for throwing rocks to a felony for possession of a concealed weapon.


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