Friday, October 26, 2007

"Frat Boys..."

A funny story from IV1, from

"Frat Boys, Ronny Ray-Gun, And Other Tales Of Krakatoa"

Let me set the scene. It was 1970. I was living in Isla Vista and we had just burnt down the Bank of America a few days earlier. It came to be known as The Isla Vista Riots No.1. I was living on the corner of Sabado Tarde and Camino Pescadero, about a block away from where Aldous Huxley had written Doors of Perception. The cops (Santa Barbara and Los Angeles County Sheriffs, and California Highway Patrol) were in a very pissy mood seeing as how we had kicked their ass so bad, they had to call in the National Guard. William Kunstler the Attorney for The Chicago 7 had come ashore in a row boat with a big sign saying "The Peoples Navy" and was giving a talk at the UCSB campus. After the talk everyone was walking back home when the cops showed up, declared us an unlawful assembly and proceded to arrest the first black man they saw who had a bottle of wine in his hand. Well people were already pissed off over the firing of a popular professor, but this highly unnecessary act got everyone pissed off even more. We kind of looked around, saw the police car, flipped it over, and torched the fucker. The car unfortunately was in front of the Isla Vista Branch of The Bank of America, a very potent symbol of the establishment and corporate funding for the war, so we burned that fucker down too.

The following 4 days and nights were open warfare and running battles, between the students and the police. On the second day the Santa Barbara County Sheriff asked the L.A. County Sheriff for back up. The third day they asked for reinforcements from the Highway Patrol, and on the fourth day Governor Ronny Ray-Gun called in The National Guard. We were throwing rocks, tipping over dumpsters and setting them ablaze in the middle of intersections, and flying black kites at night. Black kites at night? WTF? Ya the kite flying thing was cool. Since Isla Vista was built on a point there was always an ocean breeze. The black kites couldn't be seen cause we had shot out all the street lights, with sling shots and ball bearings, so the man had to ground all their helicopters. Another point of confusion was the position of the point. It faced due south, so when you were sitting on the cliff looking out over the sea, you were actually looking south, not west. And seeing as how the street signs had all been spraypainted black, the out of town cops had to answer calls like "the 3rd east west running street. They, naturally were looking for the 3rd north south running street.

We were standing on a balcony watching this Roman Phalanx of Cops marching down the street resplendent in their Plexiglas Riot Shields as they goose-stepped with military precision around the corner and out of sight. We decided the show was so good, another dube was in order, and as we stepped back inside to twist one up and refill the wine glass this thunderous cacophonous roar of voices could be heard. We ran back to the balcony just in time to see these 50 or so cops no longer information, running helter skelter every man for himself mode, for their lives, being chased by at least three hundred rock throwing, Banshee screaming tie dyed,
sandal wearing, patchoolie smelling, long haired, peace loving, college students. It was a glorious sight to behold indeed. And it was only day two.

One of my roommates Steve (RIP lost at sea) had these asbestos gloves, and one of those David (as in David and Goliath) slings, and a gas mask from the surplus store in Santa Barbara. The cops would fire a tear gas canister into the crowd and Steve would run over and pick it up and sling it back into the phalanx of cops marching down the street who had fired it. Needless to say that REALLY pissed them off. They finally figured out where he lived and retaliated in kind, but that part comes later.

Times were so different then. Let me give you an example. In my bedroom, in the bottom drawer of my dresser was where I made my living. I had a large jar there with a thousand hits of acid. Nothing fancy like Owsley or anything, just some very mellow generic pink tabs. They were $3 a hit. Everyone in town knew where they were, and we never locked our doors. People would come in, when no one was home, walk back to my room, get however many they wanted, and leave the cash in the drawer. No one ever stole the acid or the money. I was usually somewhere above the San Marcos pass hiking in the mountains and tripping, or sitting around naked in the hot springs. I had sat on the cliff over looking the ocean peaking on a few hits, and read The Hobbit in one night in it's entirety. My pad and Isla Vista were a very cool warm friendly place to live. Until…

Until the cops figured out where Steve lived, opened up the front door and lobbed in a canister of CS Pepper gas. The CS was banned for use in warfare by the Geneva Convention, but apparently was OK to use on scum, long haired college students. Now tear gas. If you get it into your eyes, can be washed out with water, but not this CS shit. Water intensifies the effects. The net result is that all our clothes and furniture had to be tossed, and we were unable to go into it for about 6 days, and only for a few moments at a time for several more weeks. So I've set the scene and the circumstances that resulted in me finding myself in this mansion.

Let me explain where I was. Hope Ranch is an uber rich snob community in Santa Barbara, a few miles south of Isla Vista. Uber rich, nouveau riche, assholes, with a "property owners association" run by bored uber rich snob bored housewives with nothing to do. Remember now this is 1970 and these houses are already in the million dollar plus range. I'm in this monstrous house being occupied by the opposing army. Uber rich snob frat boys who want to rebel against mommy dearest, anyway they can. The party is hardy, the wine (a dainty little Bordeaux Blanc stolen from some rich daddies cellar no doubt), Napoleon Brandy and good Columbian and Oaxacan bud. And of course the obligatory uber rich and uber trashy sorority girls.

You know now that I think back, partying with rich kids wasn't so bad. The kitchen in this pad was huge with one of those butcher block islands floating in a sea of Carrera marble floor tiles. The bathroom was so beautiful I felt shame defiling it's porcelain God by peeing in it. Everything was white. The tile floor the tile walls the tiled shower with a white frosted door. I mean even the toilet paper was white. With this place you would expect to have your butt wiped by the servants in Tuxedos and white gloves, using hand made French Lace doilies. White of course. The White theme was carried into the masters bedroom as well. Not to mention, I swear this is true, a goose down mattress. I was already scheming on how to lure one of those frat girls up there to try it out, but alas that was not to be.

So here I am, a homeless waif and war orphan in this Animal House, meets Cheech and Chong, meets Gone With The Wind pad filled with drunk and stoned frat boys who already have gotten too many notices from Scarlet O'hara, the head of the owners association about breaking rule #668 no loud noise after 10PM or some such shit, and Scarlet's 10 illegitimate drunk stoned Sorority Sisters.

I had gone back upstairs to take a dump in The Hall of Ivory toilet room. I just couldn't resist. It made me feel so special. I was getting ready to head down stairs again to peruse those frat girls. The front door was set in a 20 foot high wall with windows running across the top of the wall above the door. That's when I saw the police car pull up. Then the second one. Then the third one. Rolling up in full stealth mode with lights off. CRAP!

I ran to the bedroom and looked out the window. More of the bastards coming through the gate by the pool house. The oak tree was too far away to make the jump from the window sill. I WAS TRAPPED LIKE A RAT SINKING IN THE SPLENDER OF THE TITANIC! What to do, what to do? My first thought of course was drugs. No pot on me. Thank god, I hate eating pot, it tastes like shit. Three hits of acid. I could flush those before the cops turned the water off, but hey, why waste good drugs? So I threw them down my throat with some of that Chateau Lafitte Rothswhatever it's called wine. They
say desperate times call for desperate measures, and desperate men do desperate things, so not wanting to disappoint those people who make up all those "They say" sayings, I ran into the bedroom, and grabbed the white bed sheet off the bed, kicked my shoes under the bed, but left my white socks on, and headed for the bathroom. I climbed into the shower and waited and listened.

Now you're probably thinking WTF? He's in a shower in his stockings with a white bed sheet, waiting for the cops! This guy really is a nut case. Well ya,…this guy is a nut case, but I'm crazy like a fox too. I heard them bust down the front and back doors simultaneously. It wasn't long before I heard the steps on the staircase, and I put my plan into action. I flattened myself against the wall like the Q key for Sam Fischer in Splinter Cell, raise the white sheet above my head, and held it in front of me. I heard someone say "check that bathroom". So, I swear to God this Deputy Dawg comes in and looks around. He can see through the frosted
glass door without having to open it, cause he can see all the way back to the white tile, or in this case the bed sheet hiding his quarry. After about 15 minutes my arms are really getting heavy.

After about a half hour or so, I'm just fucking ripped on this acid, the bud and the wine, and this shower is looking like the cargo hold on that ship in "Krakatoa East Of Java". It's this one scene where this guy is strung out on Laudinum and they are trying to detox him by locking him in the hold. And he's hallucinating like crazy. Now Krakatoa East of Java was a really bad movie, even if it was in Cinerama. I mean Krakatoa is West of Java for Christ sakes. But it's one redeeming quality was the aforementioned scene. The Special Effects guy was definitely a head. Aside from the Cinemascope projection of the octopus on the wall, the rest of the hallucinations were the closest to the real thing I've yet to see from any film. Of course I did see it on Acid so maybe a re-screening might change my mind.

Anyway back to the shower. There was nothing left in this bathroom that was white. Colors and trails and colored trails, and trails off the trails. If you've never taken acid and are wondering what the hell trails are, go to the control panel click on mouse then go to the pointer options tab and set it for long pointer trails. Then sweep your cursor across the screen. That's what everything does when you're on acid, except with colors added. Now you know what the album title "Happy Trails" by Quicksilver Messenger Service was talking about. Not Roy Roger's theme song that's for sure.

In Carl Sagan's book "The Dragons Of Eden, he speculates on the idea that Marijuana might be responsible for Human civilization. He points out that the Pygmies are ambush hunters and can stay motionless for hours after smoking their dope that they do before the hunt. He says this ability to stay motionless is enhanced by the drug, and that maybe Pot was the first drug ever cultivated, giving rise to agriculture and civilization itself. Wouldn't that be a trip if it was real. We could all tell Harry Anslinger to kiss our ass.

Anyway it's been , it seems, like two hours I've been doing the Rain Forest Pygmy imitation, when all is quiet in the house, and to my great relief I can finally lower my arms. The dirty deed is done and the perps have gone, taking everyone with them. The house is mine alone. I go and flop out on that down mattress, albeit alone, and crash hard.

I'm jolted to consciousness by the slam of the front door, and yelling. Mommy and Daddy have bailed out Junior and are surveying the wreckage that once was their home, and giving junior hell. Probably telling the poor bastard that he's cut out of the will. DAMN! And I'm still stuck upstairs. Oh well, may as well make good while the time is there to be making it. I got undressed, jumped into the shower that was once my temporary prison, wet myself down, get out, rap a towel around my waist, walk out to the edge of the staircase, and make my presence known.

"Hey! Is there any coffee brewing?" I say in my best just woke up groggy voice, acting as if I had somehow been missed by the police and slept through the entire tawdry affair. "Whoa bro. What happened to the pad?" Dad was up the staircase faster than a mama rhino who's baby had just been threatened telling me to get my clothes on and get the fuck out of his house. Not being one to argue, I got dressed and with a last "Are you sure there's no fresh coffee? I could sure use a cup!" this boy was out the door.

I hopped into my '57 Vee Dub bus affectionately named The Blue Meanie, with a wooden back bumper painted with stars and stripes that said America Change it with Love, and bidding a fond adieu to that bastion of Reagonomics that still is Hope Ranch, I headed out to Hermosa Beach where a special sweet young lady had told me a few days earlier, I could crash there for a few days. But first I had to pick up a gas mask and make one last dash into the pad for... well of course. The jar in my bottom drawer, and any monies accumulated in my absence.


Disclaimer: As there is still outstanding John Doe warrants for the perpetrators of the bank burning, let me just say that that event never happened and my participation is strictly ficticious. And, if I'm not mistaken the bottle of wine was a gallon of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, and was not chilled.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Perfect Park Peace Monument

Dedication of the Perfect Park Peace Monument

By Bob Potter , June 10, 2003

A third of a century ago, our forefathers - and foremothers - and fore-motherfuckers - hippies and yippies; speed freaks and Jesus freaks; Students radicalized by their professors; Professors radicalized by their students; Anarchists, Pacifists and Registered Republicans; Flower Children, Franciscan Friars and pissed-off Football Players; Marxist-Leninists and Proto-Feminists; Surfers, Sorority Sisters and Sexual Revolutionaries; Space Cadets and Vietnam Vets; the Hare Krishna and the Woodstock Nation; Visionaries in all colors and Mindblown lead guitarists of non-existent bands; not to mention winos, transients, alcoholics Anonymous and Otherwise, the Chairman of the Sociology Department and ordinary college students caught up in the pure adrenalin of the moment - All of these people, and indescribable hundreds more, made history with their asses, by sitting down on them here in Perfect Park, in violation of a Police Curfew Order, linking arms to defend their community.

What could have brought so many unlikely people - including more than a few still alive here in this audience - to that outlandish act of defiance? Tonight, exactly 33 years later, it is worth looking back briefly, and as unsentimentally as possible under the circumstances, to remember what a hell of a mess things had gotten into.

To begin with, there was the Vietnam Crisis. By early 1968, with the February Tet Offensive, the American public had begun to wise up to the fact it had been lied to (does that sound familiar?) and that the Vietnam War had become unwinable, though young Americans continued to be drafted and killed in action by the thousands. This quickly brought on a Political Crisis, as President Lyndon B. Johnson was driven from the race in that Presidential Election Year by antiwar activists led by Eugene McCarthy and later Bobby Kennedy - whose assassination after the California primary in June brought chaos and deceit in its wake, a tumultuously rigged Democratic Convention and a bloody police riot in the streets of Chicago. And this coincided with a perilous turning point in the Racial Crisis in America. The non-violent insurgence of the Civil Rights movement to overturn segregation ended in calamity, with the murder of Martin Luther King on April 4,1968, touching off catastrophic urban riots across the country, and calls for Armed Struggle. The backlash from all of this brought the election in November of Richard Nixon as President of the United States.

It was in the long shadow of these events that activism - violent and non-violent - came to the sunny shores of Santa Barbara. Thanks to the EOP program, an early example of Affirmative Action, the previously lily-white UCSB campus was integrated - though the Black students who arrived were unhappy enough with their treatment by campus bureaucracy and local law enforcement that one day they took over North Hall - the campus Computer Center! That every bit of the campus' computing went on in one small building tells you how long ago that was. The peaceful settlement worked out by the UCSB administration, brought the promise of more minority faculty and students, and new Black Studies and Chicano Studies Departments - but triggered a vicious denunciation from Governor Ronald Reagan, who had won his job in the first place by attacking student demonstrators at Berkeley, an ongoing Educational Crisis.

Concurrently an Environmental Crisis had erupted, with the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of January 1968, the single worst ecological disaster of our times, and the opening gun in a war of attrition between developers and environmentalists that continues along this coast to this very day. The oil-soaked dead birds on the beach turned surfers and ordinary beach goers overnight into radical activists.

Meanwhile, thanks to the baby boom, UCSB had doubled its enrollment between 1954 and 58, doubled it again by 1963, and again by 1967. Too busy building classrooms to bother with dormitories, the University solved its problems by steering this avalanche of students into substandard overcrowded apartment houses thrown up overnight by private land speculators and slum landlords, creating a demographic dystopia called Isla Vista, and precipitating a Housing Crisis (well, thereÕs always a Housing Crisis in Isla Vista).

And all of this, let's remember, was unfolding generationally in the throbbing context of the Countercultural Crisis of the 1960's, that sexually-pioneering, musically-energized, chemically-induced metaphysical vision quest and psychedelic light show. Oh, you should have been here!

But if you were, you'll remember the pain and disillusion of it too. Woodstock led on to Altamont. Repression and violence were as American as Apple Pie, as Black militant H. Rap Brown pointed out. There were signs of trouble locally as early as 1969, with the arrest of 7 Black student leaders by the Santa Barbara Sheriffs on the pretext of an eviction notice, bringing student demonstrators out by the thousands. And April of that year brought the first death, when a bomb set off in the Faculty Club killed an innocent custodian, named Dover Sharp - a senseless violent crime still unsolved.

In the fall came news of the firing of a popular (and decidedly countercultural) Anthropology professor. The Bill Allen Crisis, which culminated in massive demonstrations and a petition signed by 7,776 students demanding an open hearing on his personnel case, was at once a carnivalesque assault on academic pomposity and a serious protest against the ivory tower obliviousness of much of the faculty, at a time when the world seemed literally to be coming apart. Bill Allen had the temerity to speak to students about what was on (and in) their minds, and it seemed he had been fired precisely for doing so.

And speaking of injustice, there were nightly TV news clips of the bizarre show trial of the Chicago Seven, with Judge Julius Hoffman railroading criminal Conspiracy charges against antiwar activists who barely knew one another, with Black leader Bobby Seale gagged and bound in the courtroom. At the year's end, as Tom Hayden, one of the defendants, came to speak on campus, a Crisis of Justice was palpable across America. Could we trust our traditional institutions, or were they in the process of failing us, precipitating anarchy and revolution - or maybe fascism?

It was in such incendiary times that Isla Vista burst into flames 33 years ago, putting this most improbable trouble spot on the world map forever after. In the first few months of 1970 there were to be three major civil disorders.

In January came huge campus protests against the firing of Bill Allen, and the calling of Santa Barbara Sheriffs to clear the Administration Building of protestors, with Captain Joel Honey, the loose cannon of the Sheriffs Tactical Squad, leading the charge. As Allen's appeal for an open hearing was turned down, with the arrest of 19 student leaders, matters careened off campus and out of control. On February 26, after a rousing speech by William Kunstler, the lawyer for the Chicago Seven, and the beating of student leader Rich Underwood by police, crowds gathered in the Isla Vista streets and attacked Realty Offices and the Bank of America, seen as the prime local symbol of the Establishment. Later that night, having chased off the police presence, the crowd set a fire in the lobby of the bank and then watched in amazement as the place burned to the ground.

The ashes of the bank were still smoldering the next day as Governor Ronald Reagan arrived in town to vilify the bank burners as "cowardly little bums" and call in the National Guard. The Bank of America took out nationwide full-page advertisements offering a $25,000 reward for the arrest of the arsonists, vowing to rebuild the bank. Reagan's call for a campus crackdown seemed to be heeded shortly afterwards, when Chancellor Vernon Cheadle banned Chicago Seven defendant Jerry Rubin from speaking on campus, saying it would "seriously threaten the welfare of the University." Unappeased, Reagan made a speech to a Growers Convention on April 7, in which he made the following infamous statement about campus disorders: "If it's to be a bloodbath, let it be now."

It seemed he didn't have long to wait. On April 16, after a campus speech by Berkeley radical Stu Albert calling on students to "rip off the pigs," there was an angry rally in Perfect Park, then a vacant lot at the end of the Embarcadero loop that had become an informal community gathering place. As night fell the new temporary bank was attacked, as were realty offices; other students - protesting the violenceÑ defended the bank and extinguished fires. The police waded into the middle of this melee, firing tear gas and birdshot into the crowd indiscriminately, from dump trucks specially outfitted for the occasion - an action that was dubbed "Operation Wagontrain". The next night the violence (and the resistance against it) resumed - with tragic consequences. As police arrived in riot gear, amid reports of sniper fire, anti violence students were attempting to defend the temporary bank from assault. One of them, Kevin Moran, was shot and killed.

KCSB the campus radio station was covering these events live, with reporters in the field, as they had previous demonstrations. Fearing that the reports were giving away police tactics and deployments, Sheriff James Webster demanded that the University authorities close down the station - an order with which Vice Chancellor Steven Goodspeed complied. So it was that the only recorded silencing of a radio station by government order in American history took place, right over there on the UCSB campus. The death of Moran was attributed to snipers, and a dawn-to-dusk curfew was imposed, with heavy police patrols and reports of beatings and apartments broken into. On April 20, as Governor Reagan made a speech blaming Moran's killing on those who "take the law into their own hands," it was revealed that a Santa Barbara policeman had admitted that his rifle had "accidentally" discharged at the time of Moran's shooting. In a subsequent Coroner's inquest, held with little public scrutiny, the shooting of Kevin Moran would be ruled to be accidental, and the policeman, Officer David Gosselin, exonerated and returned to duty.

Less than two weeks later President Nixon astonished the world, escalating the Vietnam War by invading Cambodia. The resulting firestorm of protest spread from coast to coast. At Kent State, Ohio National Guard troops fired into a crowd of protesting students, killing 4 of them. UCSB students occupied and closed the Santa Barbara airport, and surged onto the 101 Freeway, blocking it for many hours. As Universities across the country began to close down, the UCSB faculty was energized at last, moving quickly and effectively to keep our community together, by offering special "national crisis" courses focusing on the circumstances of the times.

It seemed that the school year might end quietly, but events intervened once again. On June 3 news leaked out that 17 people - student leaders and activists, the "usual" suspects Ñ had secretly been indicted, accused of burning down the Bank of America. One of those indicted had in fact been in jail the night of the bank burning. The resulting outrage led to further street and campus demonstrations, including attempts to torch the temporary bank. With disorder in Isla Vista once again, State officials, apparently acting on instructions from Governor Reagan's office, ordered the Los Angeles County Sheriffs to dispatch their Special Enforcement Branch to restore order. Instead, this notoriously violent paramilitary outfit, which had cracked heads in many urban riots, brought a reign of terror into Isla Vista. On June 8 and 9, enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew, the LA Sheriffs, accompanied by local law enforcement units, kicked down doors, dragged Isla Vistans from their houses, beat them bloody with their nightsticks, sexually harassed and intimidated, destroyed vehicles and personal property, sprayed mace and threw tear gas canisters into private yards and dwellings, threatening to shoot to kill.

At this very dark moment came Isla Vista's finest hour. With their streets under siege the next day, June 10, a group of faculty, student and community leaders met in the Methodist to seek a collective strategy. They decided to organize a sit-in in Perfect Park that night, to protest the police repression. By the time of the 7:30 curfew a quiet and determined crowd of some 700 had gathered, including UCSB faculty and staff and students of all social and political persuasions. When the police began arresting them for curfew violations, they reacted with calm, non-violent acceptance in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At 9:20, with nearly 300 arrested, police ordered the remaining crowd to disperse. When no one moved, the police sprayed pepper gas from a machine directly into the crowd. Then, as the Santa Barbara News-Press described it the next day, "gas-masked deputies swarmed into the crowd, flailing their nightsticks in all directions." Those arrested were hauled away to the still-unfinished New County Jail where many were subjected to further beatings, denied bail, abused, stripped naked, sprayed with mace and thrown into solitary confinement.

But a crucial moral point had been made. Judge Joseph Lodge ordered charges dismissed against all those arrested and, faced with an ultimatum from University officials, Governor Reagan agreed to end the curfew and withdraw the L.A. Sheriffs. Peace returned to the streets of Isla Vista. The promised bloodbath had been averted, and the task of creating new institutions for the Isla Vista community had begun.

In the aftermath of the 1970 riots, a whole array of community institutions came into being in Isla Vista. The IV Recreation and Park District would go on to become a dynamic force in the establishment of parks and other public venues for the first time, along with the dream of cityhood (with or without Goleta). The University began to provide funds, and pay belated if sporadic attention to its unruly stepchild; one tangible result was the IV Foot Patrol, putting officers into direct daily contact with the community. Also established were the IV Credit Union, the IV Medical Clinic (bringing the inimitable Dr. Dave Bearman to town), the Isla Vista Youth Projects, and the IV Food Co-op which remain vital and highly-value institutions to this day. In short a true community was born, out of the courage and solidarity of the Perfect Park sit-in.

It was in an effort to commemorate that event, and in a larger sense the spirit of peaceful protest that is the most important legacy of the Vietnam era, that some visionaries set out in the early 1990's to create a Monument in Perfect Park. They had to begin by saving the Park itself!

Perfect Park had been purchased in the 1970's by a Santa Monica doctor who wanted to build a Safeway Supermarket. Only the long Goleta Water moratorium prevented him from doing so. In 1992 - eleven years ago! - Isla Vista voters approved a referendum saving Perfect Park from the developers, and two years later the Park District bought the property. Carmen Lodise, the historian and unofficial Alcalde of Isla Vista, was probably the first to propose building a monument to the anti-war movement on the site. That Carmen was proposing it guaranteed that certain other people would oppose it - and so indeed they did. Critics denounced the whole idea as an attempt to glorify bank-burners and bomb-throwers, waste taxpayers' money and enrich unspecified cronies.

In 1995 - eight years ago! -the IV Park District decided to appoint a committee to study the issue, including both proponents and opponents. Against my better judgment (I had, after all, co-authored a book on the IV Riots) I applied to join it. Despite our disagreements we held some useful public forums and learned that the IV community generally liked the idea. Most thought it should be a positive symbol for Peace, to unite rather than divide the community.

When the committee was reconstituted in 1996 we adopted a mission statement that made clear our commitment to honoring peaceful protest. We further decided that the monument should be built with private donations rather than public funds - a noble idea, though easier said than done. And as for what the thing should look like, there were dozens of conflicting strong opinions. A consultation with the County Art Commission yielded the bright idea of a national design competition, which of course we couldnÕt afford to finance. Here the amazing people at the Fund For Santa Barbara came to our rescue in 1997, funding a $3,800 grant, which enabled us to reach artists all over the country.

To vet the entries we appointed a Selection Committee of arts professionals and community representatives (including John Muir, a combat veteran of the Vietnam war, who is here today). In June 1998 - five years ago! - the committee picked 6 finalists, who were given $500 grants to build models of their proposed monument designs. The following year, as fund raising began with a goal of $20,000, we held three public exhibitions of the models, on campus and in IV, gathering input and reactions to the designs; Santa Barbara artist Colin Gray's design for a cluster of arches proved to be the public favorite. In May 1999 - four years ago! - our committee voted to recommend Colin's design be built, and the IV Park District Board accepted the recommendation, authorizing the monument to be built on Park District land here in Perfect Park. Now all we had to do was raise $20,000.

Thanks to a flock of small donations, and a few large ones (thank you, Michael Douglas, and Richard and Tekla Sanford, for your $1,000 checks!) plus two generous grants of $2,500 from the IV Community Relations Council of the UCSB Associated Students, we had by June of 2001 - two years ago! - raised some $13,000.

They say that everything changed after September 11, 2001. That was indeed the case with our project. Suddenly, with the war in Afghanistan, a Peace Monument began to seem like a timely idea, rather than an exercise in nostalgia. People who had written us off as a bunch of aging hippies began to understand what we were up to, and pay attention. In January Congresswoman Lois Capps lent her name and support to our effort, speaking at a campus gathering where ColinÕs model was displayed, with television coverage from KEYT. In May 2002 -just a year ago! - filmmaker and film critic Peter Biskind came to town to show his infamous documentary Don't Bank on Amerika and help us raise over $2,000, and someone found a stash of old Burning Bank Check Posters and donated them to the cause.

As the Bush administration began its push toward war with Iraq, our small Peace project rode the wave of public outrage and protest as the Peace movement came alive all across the globe. Daniel Ellsberg came to town and joined our honorary board of advisors, which by then included Dick Flacks, David Krieger, Tom Hayden, Marc McGinnis, David Smith and Terence Hallinan In February of this year, as the war clouds gathered, the L.A. Times ran a prominent feature story on our project.

That same week, - less than four months ago! - still $9,000 shy of our new goal of $25.000, I picked up the telephone to find that I was speaking with someone who wanted the Perfect Park Peace Monument to be built - and had the courage and the money to make it happen. Thanks to that visionary donor - who has insisted on remaining anonymous! - we received an astonishing pledge of $9,000 and broke ground in April.

So thanks to all the hundreds of people who made this possible - Diane Conn, Dave Bearman and Carmen Lodise still on the committee, and all the others who served time on it, including Mitch Stockton, Karl Brunner, Brent Foster, Dave Fortson, Leila Salazar, Ariana Katovich and untold others. And let's not forget someone whose reckless and disastrous actions put our initiative back on page one, and turned the Peace movement from a distant memory to an international necessity - President George W. Bush!

But finally our thanks must go to the people who, 33 years ago tonight, made a commitment to non-violence and kept it so memorably, who took a beating unflinchingly, looked repression in the face, and pepper gas in the eye - the people who made this ground historic when they put their asses on the line.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Joe Melchione Photography

Joe Melchione is still doing photography and has a fine set of classic riots-era photographs online and, I think, available for purchase.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Che - 40 Years Later

Che Guevara was a hero to many of us at UCSB and in Isla Vista in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For me, he remains one to this day.

"The Martyring of Che Guevara,
By Robert Scheer, October 9, 2007 at TruthDig

The 40th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara elicited considerable media
attention, mostly about his iconic image captured on T-shirts throughout the
world. There were the standard snarky asides that many young people wearing
those T-shirts have scant notion of who Che was, but the journalists
reporting the story seemed equally ignorant. Little was reported about Che’s
life and what led him to shun the comforts of a physician’s lifestyle in
Argentina to fight as a revolutionary in the rugged terrains of Cuba, the
Congo and, finally, Bolivia—or why someone who claimed to be obsessed with
helping the world’s poor was executed, gangland style, on the order of a CIA

One exception was the BBC, which bothered to send a reporter to Florida to
interview Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-born CIA agent who was part of a team
of CIA operatives and Bolivian soldiers who captured Che. “Mr. Rodriguez
ordered the soldier who pulled the trigger to aim carefully, to remain
consistent with the Bolivian government’s story that Che had been killed in
action in a clash with the Bolivian army,” said the BBC report. Che’s hands
were then cut off and put in formaldehyde to preserve his fingerprints.

In his interview with the BBC, Rodriguez claimed that the order to kill Che
came from the Bolivian government, and that he went along: “I could have
tried to falsify the command to the troops, and got Che to Panama as the
U.S. government said they wanted,” he recalled, but he didn’t. Clearly, the
U.S. government was not unhappy with Rodriguez’s role in the bloody affair,
for he went on, as he boasts, to train the Nicaraguan Contras and advise the
repressive Argentine military government in the 1980s. He showed the BBC
reporter his CIA medal for exceptional service along with a picture of him
with the first President Bush in the White House. George H.W. Bush, it
should be remembered, had been the head of the CIA during some of the years
that Rodriguez worked there and was not put off by the man’s past deeds,
including his part in Che’s assassination.

So, what’s the big deal? Che was a Cuban Communist, and it’s a good thing
that folks like Bush and Rodriguez were able to defeat him before he spread
his evil message further—right? False, on every count.

First off, he was either an Argentine Trotskyite or an anarchist, but Che
was not a Communist in what we think of as the heavily entrenched,
bureaucratized Cuban mold. Che was restless in post-revolutionary Cuba
because his anarchist temperament caused him to bristle at the emerging
bureaucracy. He was, like Trotsky in his dispute with Stalin, skeptical that
the kind of socialism that truly served the poor could survive in just one
country; hence, he died attempting to internationalize the struggle.

It also turned out that killing Che was a big mistake, as his message was
spread more effectively by his execution than by his guerrilla activities,
which were, after he left Cuba, quite pathetic. This is the case in Latin
America, where political leaders he helped inspire are faring better than
those coddled by the CIA. Daniel Ortega, whom the CIA worked so doggedly to
overthrow, is the elected president of Nicaragua. Almost all of Latin
America’s leaders are leftists, some more moderate than Che (as in Brazil),
and others as fiery as the guerrilla (in Venezuela), but all determinedly
independent of yanqui control. Fortunately, they differ from Che in
preferring the ballot to the gun. But all recognize that poverty remains the
region’s No. 1 problem and that the free-market model imposed by the United
States hardly contains all the answers. Recall that the U.S. break with the
Cuban revolution came before Castro’s turn toward the Soviets, and that it
was over his nationalization of American-owned business assets in Cuba
ranging from Mafia-run casinos to the electric power grid.

These days, few politicians in the United States even seem to care about the
subversive Cuban influences in our own backyard that once haunted them. The
embargo on Cuba remains to mollify Florida’s aging Cuban community, but
what’s important to Washington today is Mideast oil, not protecting the
peasants of Bolivia from the likes of Che Guevara.

On Monday, Che’s death was marked, in the Bolivian village where he was
killed, by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who proclaimed his movement “100
percent Guevarist and socialist,” which hardly registers as a propaganda
success story for those favoring CIA assassinations. They turned a
failed—and flawed—guerrilla fighter into an enduring symbol of resistance to


A good site for links to stuff about Che:
Che: Selected Writings