Santa Barbara- S County

1970 Isla Vista Riots Remembered After Last Weekend's Melee

Older generation said they had a cause, and question Saturday's violent crowd

Isla Vista 1970 Riots

ISLA VISTA, Calif. - The Isla Vista riots in 1970 have been compared to the melee last weekend, and the older generation says, they had a cause worth fighting for.  Back then, the Vietnam War was at its peak, the death toll was mounting, and emotions were high.

"Absolutely they had a cause," said Ken Gaston a graduate who recalls the riots nearly 45 years ago.  He's seen images of Saturday's mayhem and said, "this was pure vandalism. I thought it was disgraceful."

In 1970, there were actually three riots between February and June. One life was lost.  Kevin Moran was killed by police in the riot on April 18.  A memorial plaque has been placed in Isla Vista in his memory.

The scene that shook the country occurred on February 25, 1970 when students burned the Bank of America in Isla Vista.  It made headlines from coast to coast.

The following day, a State of Emergency was declared by Governor Ronald Reagan, the National Guard was called in, and 300 arrests had been made.  The bank site today is an off campus UC Santa Barbara school hall.  Nearby the Bank of America has present day ATM machines in the business district, but no free standing building.

Looking back at the events during the anti-war period, compared to the recent massive gathering, one former resident, Jean King said, "actually I wasn't surprised."  King lives in Redding, Calif. these days but says between 1966 and 1976 she lived in Isla Vista. Then, like now, weekends were always full of parties.  "This is the same thing it was when I was in school. Everyone wanted to come to Isla Vista when they were in high school.  People came in large groups to party in Isla Vista."

The recent riot, however, has been viewed as meaningless to many of the old timers. They are also shocked at the destruction to private and public property.

"The cost too.  We just went down Del Playa Drive and the disregard for the environment is unacceptable and  insulting," said Carl Sunbeck who has both studied and taught history over  the last 50 years. "It is an insult to the integrity of the university. It is one of the best institutions in the county. It reflects poorly on all of us."

As for solutions, they're not coming easy.

"You can't keep it under wraps with the social media.  If they decide to come in.  What are you going to do?," asked Gaston.

And when it comes to paying the enormous costs for law enforcement officers, "Well some of the kids should be held accountable for paying for that  somehow," said Sunbeck.

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