Stephen MacLeod was an Isla Vistan who was in the loop area at the early stages of the break-in to the Bank. Here are his recollections (with some slight edits from me -- Thanks, Steve!):
I was in the Bank of America the night it burned down. Yes,
it's true. Some friends (fellow UCSB students) and I had just seen
Fellini's Satyricon at the Magic Lantern Theater. We walked out to a
scene at the Bank that might have come straight from Fellini. Very
I had gone to the Kunstler talk earlier in the day, and I was
meeting some friends for an early film. I wasn't aware of any
post-Kunstler gathering until we came out of the Magic Lantern. The
doors to the Bank were wide open and people were mingling inside and
out. Later, I assumed that this was probably at the very beginning of
the Bank's demise because there were less than 50 people there...
At that point the security guard was gone,
there were no employees or cops there at all... we went
down the street to see what was happening in the Bank. The only
"violence" I witnessed was people tearing down drapes from the tall
windows that were in the Bank. Others were tossing paper files
throughout the large main room of the bank, and still others were making
long distance phone calls to friends on the Bank phones.
is that there were no political overtones to anything that was
happening. In fact, I distinctly remember the drape-destroyers (the most
violent group there at that time) as being mainly drunk fraternity boys,
laughing and ripping. We were only in the Bank for about 15 minutes
because a friend of mine noticed that someone had a film camera and was
taking footage. There was enough paranoia then that we all decided to
leave rather than risk being filmed. We got something to eat and then
walked up to the future location of Perfect Park...
It was dark by this time. There was a record store there... and outside was an abandoned cop car that had been overturned and
was burning. I didn't see one cop, so this whole scene was (again) very
bizarre. Lots of people were roaming the streets, chants from the
crowds, but (at least at that point) no direct confrontations with cops
because they weren't there! So, we went home to our apartment.
asleep when someone woke us all up about 2 or 3 in the morning. We went
to the roof to witness a huge fire, the flame must have been 200-300
feet tall and it lit up almost all of Isla Vista. I went back to bed,
but went over to the Bank in the morning to witness the remains. Clearly
the fire was huge and extremely hot. The structure of the building was
based on very large steel i-beams (maybe 2-3 feet thick) and the heat
had been such that all of these were significantly bent from the heat,
just laying in ashes bent at 10-20 degrees from normal...
Hmmm, well, to be honest, I have very little faith in my memories of that period generally, bits of rememberances from one riot may be folded in with others. The long term effects of tear gas and various other chemicals have taken their toll... I think I might want to talk to the one friend from that night that I still keep in contact with to check his memories with mine. We haven't talked about this in a very long time. The things I am fairly certain of are -- it was light outside, it was easy to get into the Bank, there was a dumpster outside the Bank, the description of the interior of the Bank with drunk fraternity boys etc, and the guy filming (who looked like a cop to us -- thus our paranoia).