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Protests Fail to Halt UC Changes at People’s Park : Berkeley: Officials hope to have volleyball courts open next week. Demonstrators want the site preserved a a relic of the 1960s.

From the Associated Press

Volleyball games could begin in People’s Park next week despite fierce protests that have ravaged nearby Telegraph Avenue, a spokesman for UC Berkeley said Monday.

“At this point, the project’s going to continue and hopefully, in a few days, everything will be finished,” said UC’s Jesus Mena.

The courts are expected to be completed within a few days, and volleyball may start soon after, Mena said. But the game could take on a sense of danger if the violence persists--and players may want to wear sturdy shoes.

Demonstrators have vowed to keep fighting the UC plan, and some have said they will attempt to sabotage the games by throwing broken glass into the sandy pits.

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Campus police will watch over the courts for the first few days they are open, working with three “park coordinators” the university has hired to oversee the new facilities, Mena said.

Construction work continued Monday despite protests from those who want the park to remain a relic of the 1960s Free Speech movement and a popular hangout for the city’s homeless.

Mena said the university is unswayed by days of marches, sit-ins and rallies aimed at halting the recreational construction in People’s Park,

“People have a right to disagree. The group represents a minority point of view and now they seem determined to impose their will on everybody else,” he said.

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Because of the strife, a formal opening day has not been set, Mena said. But the first two courts should be ready for play by early next week. Two more courts, a public toilet and playground will be built in coming months, he said.

On Sunday, a city council member called for a “cease-fire” in the violence over the park that has sent business plummeting as much as 50% for merchants along Telegraph Avenue.

The commercial district has been virtually closed since the rioting started last week, with many shop windows boarded up.

City Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek said she will ask the council to meet in emergency session, but she did not give a date. “We need a cease-fire,” Shirek said Sunday. “For the police, this is meant literally. For park supporters, no more trashing. Both sides, please stop baiting each other.”

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Hours later, however, police fired dummy bullets at about 100 demonstrators. The incident occurred just before midnight, after officers in riot gear had spent several hours ordering protesters to disperse.

A few protesters hurled bottles at police, but most fled. No injuries were reported. The crowd had dwindled from the 250 or so who marched through the streets earlier in the evening.

Marc Weinstein, an owner of a record store in the area, said he has lost thousands of dollars.

“This business is totally dependant on what is going on out in street and at various times there’s literally nobody in the store. It’s been down generally 20% to 50%,” Weinstein said.

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He predicted that the volleyball courts will never be used because of rumored plans to sabotage them. “And the million dollars it’s going to cost them to defend the use of the things they could have used to build a (homeless) shelter,” Weinstein said.


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