38 years ago..
Fran has a post up about an anti-war speaker she went to see yesterday..It reminded me of an important part of American history that doesn’t get much notice now..
On Feb 26th 1970, although some say it was the 25th..(it was after midnight I do believe) the Bank of America was burned to the ground in Isla Vista, CA. Why would this be important to me? Well, lemme tell ya..
I was a 16 year old high school student living ‘down the road’ in Lompoc, from the mostly college-student community of Isla Vista. I was in my senior year. I was fast becoming an anti-war activist..traveling to Santa Barbara via my ‘thumb’ to attend various rallies and protests against the Vietnam War every week.
Santa Barbara was home to UCSB and SBCC, both were homebase to anti-war activists. There were weekly protests, vigils, and everything else associated with the Anti-War Movement. We had speakers which enthralled us, motivated us and urged us to do whatever it took to end the war. There were wonderful speakers who were well-known Anti-War Activists..it was a time in America that people could still gather and speak their mind. But it all changed that night in Isla Vista.
In the late afternoon of that day, of the burning of the Bank of America, William Kunstler spoke at the stadium nearby, and talked about the Chicago-8, yes..I know it’s mostly known as the Chicago-7..but it was orginally eight ok? But I am getting off track here..
It was a day of speeches and singing and the usual fare that accompanies an anti-war rally. But something was different that day..I still get goose bumps when I think about it..but something was different. It was the second straight day of protests and they were getting progressively angrier and violent. No one was killed in Isla Vista..very few were even arrested.
They didn’t rebuild in the same spot. But there is a plaque that marks the spot were the bank was.
But the main reason I bring this up is that there is a line to be drawn..a direct correlation I believe…because.. three months later, four students were murdered at Kent State by law enforcement officers…and they weren’t’ burning down shit my dear reader.Did they want to put the fear of God into us? Did they want to send ‘us’ a message? I think they did when they killed those four kids at Kent State..it was payback for Isla Vista in my humble opinion.
Edit: I do recall that a student was killed by police a few months later during another attempt to burn down the temporary BofA..Kevin Moran. He was attempting to put out a fire started by students when the cops shot him. The police however tried to say he was shot by a ‘radical’.