Lately there have been reports of some violent incidents in Golden Gate Park, fueling official discussions about possibly restricting use of the park at night. This echoes for me a long journalistic tradition, commencing in the nineteenth century, focusing on the perils of public parks . . . a genre exemplified by the above illustration from the National Police Gazette, published in 1878 (referring to Central Park in New York). I’m reminded that from their inception public parks have been perceived as places of alternating “sunshine and shadow” . . . potentially both delightful and dangerous . . . perhaps embodying a kind of primordial dichotomy.
The following article from the SF Examiner is indeed shocking, but I wonder whether the park is actually a more violence-prone place than other parts of the city. Or is it just that this kind of incident plays on some visceral predisposition to experience a shiver of fear in the deep, dark woods . . . ?
“A 33-year-old man was beaten to the point of memory loss Tuesday in yet another alarming assault in Golden Gate Park during the early-morning hours, police said.
The victim said he was knocked unconscious and could not remember what happened, telling cops he’d been attacked sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.
A passerby found the beaten victim and brought him to the Safeway on La Playa Street in the Richmond district, where cops were called, Esparza said.
He was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He described the suspect as a white man in his 40s with a pony tail, Esparza said.
The attack was the latest in a string of brutal violence in Golden Gate Park that led to calls for an overnight closure of the park, where transients are known to live.
Just past midnight Friday, thieving thugs pistol-whipped and stabbed a 50-year-old homeless man and set fire to his tent in the park, police said. The attack occurred in the area of Transverse Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
There have been no arrests in either case.
Last month, The San Francisco Examiner reported that a plan to close Golden Gate and McLaren parks at night had stalled with the change in mayoral administration.
As one of his final pieces of legislation, Mayor Gavin Newsom in December called for the two parks to be closed between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. daily. The plan was in response to a rash of violence and vandalism in Golden Gate Park, including the fatal stabbing of a transient, the mauling of a park visitor by a dog belonging to a homeless camper, and the destruction of 32 rose bushes and three holes at a golf course.
The park crimes reinforced the idea that “nothing good happens at Golden Gate Park in the middle of the night,” Recreation and Park Department Director Phil Ginsburg said.
Currently, visitors can be in the park at any hour, but it is against the law to sleep there. However, that law has not eliminated camping by homeless people, according to police. If the park was officially closed, cops could bring campers or loiterers to jail on trespassing charges.”