Thirty-seven years ago this week the Bank of America in Isla Vista was burned to the ground. Today, Embarcadero Hall stands in its place, as well as a small monument laid into the cement commemorating the events that occurred, described in the following article, printed Feb. 26, 1970. A few editor’s notes are included for clarification purposes.
Thursday, February 26, 1970
At three o’clock this morning approximately 200-300 law enforcement officers moved on Isla Vista following a second night of rioting during which one police car was overturned and burned, realty offices vandalized and the Bank of America building completely destroyed by flames.
The riot, which immediately followed a gathering at Perfect Park [next to Anisq’Oyo’ Park at the south end of the Embarcadero Loop] at 5:30 p.m., intensified until approximately 2:30 this morning when the crowd was warned by a police helicopter to disperse or face arrest for unlawful assembly. At 3:30 a.m., police reportedly were arresting and clubbing students who had failed to disperse. They also searched apartments of students believed to be involved in the riot.
Following is a chronology of the night’s events:
5-5:30 p.m.: After the [Chief Defense Attorney William] Kunstler speech [about the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial in 1969 for demonstrators involved in the Vietnam War protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention], students walk toward Perfect Park where a gathering is planned. A dozen police cars are patrolling the streets. Richard Underwood, a former UCSB student who is carrying a bottle of wine, is suddenly grabbed by two sheriff’s deputies who attempt to arrest him. Two other patrol cars arrive on the scene; deputies are wearing riot gear. Underwood resists the deputies; the police club him several times. He is dragged into one of the police cars. Students begin pelting the police and their cars with rocks. The police leave. The crowd, now estimated at 500-700, mills around the park area. Several police cars drive back and forth around the park; students throw rocks at the cars.
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Windows at Isla Vista Realty are broken, as well as those of the Embarcadero Company, Income Property Management, Ventura Realty, Finear Realty, the Brazen Onager and The Village Green.
6:30-7:30 p.m.: Fire is set in the Bank of America building when a burning trash can is placed inside. One hundred to 150 County Sheriff’s Deputies arrive in full riot gear and make the first sweep of the evening on the crowd.
One contingent of about 40 deputies moves from behind the bank onto a crowd amassed around the Enco station. The students flee, are later met by another crowd of police coming from the Magic Lantern Theatre [now I.V. Theater] and then turn and charge the deputies, breaking their lines of formation. The deputies run and the crowd hurls rocks after them; they in turn throw rocks back at the crowd. They retreat up Madrid.
At this point, a second contingent of police disembarks from a transit bus parked on Camino Pescadero. The first contingent gets back on the bus and members of the crowd again throw rocks at them, breaking five or six windows of the bus.
7:30-9:30 p.m.: Crowd grows to about 1,500. A patrol car left behind in the police retreat is pelted with rocks, overturned and burned in front of American Records on Embarcadero Del Mar. All entrances to campus and Isla Vista are roadblocked by police. No cars are admitted into or out of the area.
9:30-11:30 p.m.: A blue 1962 Ford Falcon drives slowly past Isla Vista Market, speeds up suddenly and throws four canisters of tear gas into the crowd. Gas is also thrown at crowds around Isla Vista Realty, on Sabado Tarde, and at the corner of Embarcadero Del Norte and Seville. Crowd members move garbage bins into the streets to block traffic. A second tear gas raid is made near Village Market and at the Bank of America building.
10:30 p.m.: In response to numerous rumors, Associated Press reports that no official request has been made to Governor Reagan to call out the National Guard.
11:30-12 p.m.: Unidentified persons make a pile of papers and furniture inside the Bank of America building and use gasoline to ignite it. The fire grows gradually at first but the building is soon engulfed in flames.
12 p.m.-2:30 a.m.: The Bank of America continues to burn. Flames leap 30-40 feet into the air and the roof eventually caves in. Crowds gather at the bank. More barricades are placed in the streets.
2:30-3 a.m.: Combined law enforcement agencies from UCSB, UCLA and Berkeley as well as Santa Barbara County mass at San Rafael Dorm. At 2:45 a.m. a helicopter hovers over Isla Vista near the burning Bank of America and Santa Barbara County Sheriff James Webster warns the crowd to disperse or be arrested for unlawful assembly.
3-4 a.m.: The crowd begins to disperse. Forty policemen move down Sabado Tarde charging hecklers. More rocks are thrown. Thirty policemen with plastic riot shields move up Embarcadero Del Norte, crossing Perfect Park. Another group of policemen line up along the loop end of Perfect Park.
Students who fail to disperse are arrested. Reports of who the students are and what they are charged with cannot be obtained. Isla Vista Realty is again the target of vandalism. A helicopter flies overhead with a searchlight in attempt to spot crowd members. Sixty to 70 policemen are now lined up across Perfect Park and more students are arrested and booked behind the Bank of America. Many apartments containing suspected demonstration participants are searched.
4-4:30 a.m.: The helicopter leaves. A trash fire is started at the top of the loop, and KCSB is ordered to leave the balcony of the Wooden Horse Restaurant on Embarcadero Del Mar. The police make another sweep up Sabado Tarde, making more arrests.
4:30 a.m.: Local hospitals are able to report the following injuries resulting from last night’s disturbance:
Cottage Hospital had received several phone calls concerning tear gas burns and had treated two persons. A police officer was treated for superficial injuries and released.
Cottage Hospital reported that a policeman had been treated at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday evening for a face laceration. He was also released.
4:30-5 a.m.: Eighteen to 25 highway patrol cars with six patrolmen in each car patrol Isla Vista, stopping and arresting any persons on the streets, while reportedly clubbing several others.
6 a.m.: Fifteen or 20 people have reportedly been arrested.
6 a.m.: Reagan’s office says they are “evaluating the situation” and will reach a decision on whether to call the National Guard depending on what occurs today.