Sunday, December 28, 2008

"To The Bank!" 

Every once in a while, former Isla Vistans reconnect here, many with stories of their times during the campus demonstration, Isla Vista riots, and the community building years. Here's one recently come in from Davo:

"My friend Steve and I lived in IV during the time of the riots. Steve was on the 'front lines' the night the bank burnedin IV I. He remember the burning dumptsters being rammed through the doors of the bank, and the subsequent fire lighting up the night sky. It was a thing of beauty. Later on,he was one of those who strolled through it. He couldn't find anything more interesting than coffee creamer at this point, so he didn't take anything. Nothing ever came of it, so apparently he wasn't caught on film.

"Once the bank caught fire, and the police cars were pelted with rocks and left, then came the Greyhound busses full of police. There was a very large line of police in full riot gear with shields. It reminded Steve of that movie, '300 Spartans.' (the original). They began to advance, and everyone panicked and ran. Some people were falling and in danger of being trampled. But then they regrouped, and started 'firing' rocks and some bottles at the blue line. The police had advanced so powerfully, seemingly arrogant and ruthless, certainly overpowering and seeming invincible. But as the 'missiles' found their mark, one cop after another would fall. Soon the line broke, and they ran for cover and left. For that one night, of course, there was no 'law and order' in Isla Vista. No civil authorities, police or fire, could enter, and of course they gave up. It could be said, for one night Isla Vista was not a part of the U.S. It seceded from the Union.

"One night in particular, Steve was with a group of about a dozen guys, roaming the streets looking for police cars to pelt with rocks. They wore kerchiefs over their faces, soaked with vinegar, supposedly this helped with the tear gas. Anyway, Steve made a tactical mistake and got separated from the group, and suddenly found himself isolated on the outskirts of town. A couple cop cars spotted him. He turned and ran across a large field for dear life. He could see his shadow stretched out far in front of him a long ways from the search lights shining on him. Shots were being fired at him. Of what he didn't know, and didn't stop to ask! All he could do was keep running. Finally he came to a fence and hopped it. He came to the back door of a house and knocked on it, and told the people there he was running from the cops so they let him in. What a time it was, what a culture, that this was considered appropriate behavior. After a few minutes, he left and crawled to the next house, and then to the next house, house by house, heading towards the beach.

"Then he worked his way down the beach heading towards the dorms, as he was a freshman. A helicopter was searching the beach and shining its spotlight. When the light came near him, he crouched down in the crevice between the cliff and the sand. Somehow, someway, he made it safe back to the dorm.

"On another occasion, he was staying with a friend in IV, in an apartment which formed an 'L', with the front door opening to the inside, not to the street. A fellow protester, as was called a 'brother' back then, not connoting race, asked if he could hide in Steve's pad, which he agreed to. Then the protester had a Molotov cocktail with a half gallon wine bottle. The police would drive through the streets in dump trucks, firing tear gas and perhaps rubber bullets or... The protester lit his Molotov and heaved it at a dump truck going by, and he and Steve quickly ran into the apartment amid shots being fired. Steve hid under a bed. He could see the police walking through the bushes, shining their flashlights into the apartment. He knew if they saw him the police would break down the door and get him. But he hid successfully.

"In the mornings, the air was filled with remnants of smoke and tear gas, and dumpsters were smoldering. Groups dared not gather, and some people went to class. But in the evenings, the battle was on...

"I believe it was in mid-April 1970, there was a concert in the large park on the East outskirts of town (not the park by the bank)(or was it an athletic field, I don't remember). There were 5,000 people there; everybody had a great time. But all good things must end, as did the concert. 5,000 people were just mulling around quietly, not really knowing what to do, not really wanting to leave. Overhead, Sheriff Joel Honey in his helicopter was threatening the people to disperse. This infuriated Steve. He did not want to see this go down as a victory for Joel Honey. So at the top of his(very, very loud) lungs, he yelled, 'TO THE BANK!' Silence. Then, somewhere in the crowd, someone repeated, 'TO THE BANK!' Then another. And another. Pretty soon the whole crowd was chanting, 'TO THE BANK!' and off they went! A surge of 5,000 people off to the bank! Thus began what came to be known as 'IV II' and ultimately the tragic fatality."

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   Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mexico City Massacre 1968 

In the summer of 1968, Mexico was experiencing the birth of a new student movement.



( Photo courtesy of NPR )


But that movement was short-lived. On Oct. 2, 1968, 10 days before the opening of the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, police officers and military troops shot into a crowd of unarmed students. Thousands of demonstrators fled in panic as tanks bulldozed over Tlatelolco Plaza.

Government sources originally reported that four people had been killed and 20 wounded, while eyewitnesses described the bodies of hundreds of young people being trucked away. Thousands of students were beaten and jailed, and many disappeared. Forty years later, the final death toll remains a mystery, but documents recently released by the U.S. and Mexican governments give a better picture of what may have triggered the massacre. Those documents suggest that snipers posted by the military fired on fellow troops, provoking them to open fire on the students...

National Public Radio has a very good audio retrospective, along with images, which also sheds new light on the massacre in Tlatelolco Plaza. Go to:
NPR: Mexico Massacre 1968

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