In the autumn of 1968, Rollo Turner opened the Black Market in Bloomington, Indiana on land owned by businessman and antiwar activist Larry Canada. Located on the corner of Dunn Street and Kirkwood Avenue, the Black Market sold LPs, books, artwork, and African imports, and quickly evolved into a peaceful gathering place for Bloomington and Indiana University’s African-American community. In May of 1969 Turner would gain fame for leading a coalition of students and faculty in an occupation of IU’s Ballantine Hall to protest tuition increases.
On December 26th 1968, the Black Market was firebombed by two local members of the Ku Klux Klan. The entire inventory of the business was lost, and the Black Market was forced to close its doors permanently. The countercultural space had failed to last three months before being attacked and destroyed by regressives. The building which housed the establishment was razed soon afterwards.
In 1967, Indianapolis native Kathy Noyes moved to the area and wed Larry Canada. The couple attempted to create a utopian community in nearby Nashville, Indiana. It was one of numerous communities in the Midwest in that era, according to Mary Ann Wynkoop in Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University, based on “general ideals of sharing, sexual liberation, and pure democracy.” The community was eventually abandoned after clashes with the sheriff of Nashville, another local Klansman.
Larry and Kathy Canada eventually divorced, and Larry moved away from Bloomington. Kathy retained ownership of the land that the Black Market had stood on, where students had autonomously begun filling the empty lot with flowers and vegetation. The students eventually named the lot ‘Peoples Park’ in honor of Peoples Park at the University of California-Berkeley, where an anti-war demonstrator had been shot dead by shotgun-happy policemen in 1970.
Kathy Noyes Canada left Bloomington in 1976, and donated Peoples Park to the city, with the stipulation that it always remain a public park for the citizens of Bloomington. If the terms of the agreement were not honored, ownership of the park defaulted back to the Canada family.
On October 9th, 2011, Occupy Bloomington took Peoples Park, and has held it since. Roughly twenty individual tents now stand in the occupied space, as well as a community kitchen, a Peoples Library, and a large open tent where General Assembly is held. Occupy Bloomington has organized numerous marches, fundraisers for the homeless community, teach-ins, mic-checks of visiting politicians, and assorted direct actions. A thriving new civic space has been created for citizens to participate in a direct democratic process–the radical spirit of Peoples Park has been reawakened in downtown Bloomington in the fall of 2011.
Later this week I’ll be delivering the second shipment of supplies from Firedoglake’s Occuply Supply Fund. The first shipment arrived with Kevin Gosztola on October 27th as part Occupy Supply’s maiden Midwest tour of Occupy sites.