Over the Top at the Fly

A Different Kind Of Garden Party

It wasn't Berkeley's People's Park, but the atmosphere in the University- owned portion of the Fly Club Garden last Sunday was distinctly one of confrontation.

True, none of the 60 or more people who came to liberate "People's Field" last Sunday expected the club members to call the University police, but throughout the long afternoon the adversaries were obvious. The liberators played frisbee and football on one side of a string marking the boundary, making joking references to the "fleas," while the Fly Club members stood on their land near the club veranda, sipping drinks and watching the other students gambol on the lawn.

About 1300 square feet of the garden, enclosed by a high wire fence, has belonged to the University since 1956, when it bought the plot from the Fly Club. But for 20 years, Harvard has let the final club use it in return for maintenance, while the University has paid over $50,000 in property taxes on the land to Cambridge.

Fly Club members and liberators agreed Sunday that the use of the land has been inequitable--but they disagreed on the liberators' tactics. Clifford Brass '77, one of the organizers of the People's Field movement, said Sunday the land belongs to the University, and should be open to all students, not restricted to Fly Club use. Fly member Michael K. Horton'76, on the other hand, said he is sympathetic to the demonstrators, but that their party Sunday--replete with Beach Boys blaring from a Lowell House room--was an invasion of the club's privacy, and was "just liable to create chaos."

What the University plans to do with the plot remains unclear. It originally made the purchase to build a student center there, but the land is much too small for anything of that size. And it does, make a pleasant garden--many of the liberators' comments Sunday centered on the nice job the Fly Club has done on upkeep. When one frisbee player suggested a slight dip in the ground was dangerous, another responded, "But it's perfect for croquet."

Most of the Fly Club members seem to feel the whole episode Sunday was prompted by what one member called "red rag journalism"--a series of articles in the Crimson discussing the ownership and use of the land. Later that afternoon, Thomas Whiteside '32, a Fly Club trustee, said the reporter who wrote those articles "must be a Communist--he thinks people should invade private property." Thomas E. Walsh Jr., the club's steward, interrupted a conversation I was having with a club member to thrown me off the Fly Club land, threatening to call the police if I didn't move fast enough.

None of the students who climbed the fence into the garden on Sunday are sure what will happen next. Many of them last week discussed possibly liberating the plot every Sunday afternoon, but said the pressure of reading period may force them to wait till next fall to take further action. Certainly, they aren't releasing their plans--the demonstration last Sunday was announced by anonymous leaflets spread through the University dining halls that morning. But the organizers vow they won't sit back and leave the garden to the Fly Club, no matter what the University decides to do with the land.