On Wednesday, May 14, 1969, UC Berkeley Chancellor Roger W. Heyns announced definitively that he intended to construct a fence around “People’s Park” so that it might be converted, as the University planned, into an athletic field.
In the early morning of May 15 — a day later known as “Bloody Thursday” — police armed with tear gas launchers and shotguns swept the Park and removed everyone from the property.
A spontaneous noon rally, protesting Heyns’s decision, brought 3000 people to gather on the Cal campus. When the rally finished, those jammed into Sproul Plaza started heading toward the park. Cries of “We want the park!” rose from the crowd.
In response to crowd hostility—attempts to overturn and burn police vehicles, the pelting of police with rocks and bottles—police escalated their tactics, discharging tear gas into the South Campus streets and then firing shotguns loaded with buckshot (not birdshot, as police originally claimed) at the roofs of Telegraph Avenue buildings.
Student James Rector suffered fatal injuries from police fire while on the roof of Granma Books. Nacio Jan Brown’s photograph captures Rector shortly after he had been shot, during the long wait for an ambulance to arrive.