Campus radio station KCSB 91.9 FM will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the burning of the Bank of America in Isla Vista by broadcasting a special program next week, screening a film and holding a live panel discussion in Embarcadero Hall.
The broadcast, which is scheduled to air from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22, will include archival audio footage from 1968-1971. The audio coverage documents on-campus student anti-war protests and civil rights activism, and the infamous burning of the I.V. Bank of America in 1970. The material was collected by KCSB from various protests, lectures, rallies and live audio feeds from the actual burning.
The broadcast will be followed by a screening of “Don’t Bank on Amerika” — a film by former UCSB faculty member Peter Biskind — which documents the I.V. protests. The screening will take place at Embarcadero Hall from 8 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. After the screening, a four-person panel consisting of former UCSB students and activists who were involved in the movement will be present to answer questions.
KCSB will also broadcast the panel interview, which is expected to take place at 9 p.m.
Fabienne Boudreau, KCSB associate news director, said the Feb. 25, 1970, bank fire was started in the late hours of the evening by a burning trash can that was thrown through the window of the bank. Earlier that day, the bank had been broken into and vandalized, Boudreau said.
“Rumor has it that no police or fire trucks came that night,” Boudreau said. “The fire was put out the next day – they just kind of let it happen.”
KCSB Event Planner Chandler Briggs said the Bank of America burning was just one incident in a series of events sparked by civil rights issues in I.V.
“It wasn’t just one night, it was a just a really intense time period,” Briggs said. “There were three riots in all.”
Briggs said the location where they will hold the film and discussion is significant because Embarcadero Hall was built where the old bank once stood. Boudreau said that during the question-and-answer period following the film the panel will take questions from the audience, address the politics of the university and talk about the anger of UCSB students at the time.
Although panel member Yonie Harris, a UCSB graduate and current dean of students, did not attend UCSB until after the bank burning had occurred, Briggs said she is vital to the panel of former students and activists because of her current administrative position with the school.
“We wanted that kind of connection between the university and Isla Vista,” Briggs said. “We also wanted a comparison between the activism then and the activism now.”
Boudreau said a general sense of discontent over civil rights issues brought students together in opposition to inequality in the late 1960s and ’70s.
“During that time, people were getting upset about the break between the rights of the upper class and the lower class, the rights of the worker, among other things,” Boudreau said. “Young intellectuals and students of color were among those involved.”
In addition to larger political issues, Briggs said I.V. residents also had more local problems on their minds.
“People were also mad at their landlords because of high rental rates,” Briggs said. “There were a lot of realty places in Isla Vista that had windows smashed in.”
Briggs said current UCSB staff helped him select and locate the panelists for the event.
“UCSB sociology professor Dick Flacks, who specializes in the civil rights movement and has his own radio show called ‘Culture and Protest,’ gave me the names of people who might be interested,” Briggs said.
Boudreau said modern technology has enabled KCSB to gather pieces of audio from the time and edit them together to form a cohesive broadcast. The KCSB archives, which were digitized two years ago, enabled all audio reels to be converted into MP3 files that can be easily accessed and edited on the computer, Boudreau said.
“Now it is so much easier — instead of going from reel to reel, we can just do it digitally,” Boudreau said.