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The Night of February 25, 1970

Kunstler had addressed perhaps 2,000 people in Harder Stadium on campus in the late afternoon. Following his speech, many people walked back toward the center of town. Numerous police units were patrolling Isla Vista in what was called a "saturation patrol technique." Suddenly, police singled out Rich Underwood, another student leader who had figured prominently in the Bill Allen demonstrations, charged him with carrying a molotov cocktail (it was actually just an open bottle of wine), and beat him up on the spot.

"It was this incident, one more incident of wanton police harassment, which the people in Isla Vista - the students - said: 'I've had enough!,'" recalled Greg Knell, then vice president of the UCSB Associated Students. "This is our community, and this occupying army must be driven out."

That's exactly what happened later that night. Police cars were set on fire, further attacks were mounted on the Bank of America, and several waves of police forces were repelled, beaten back and out of Isla Vista by street-fighting Isla Vistans.

"All of a sudden, all you heard out of the windows was the Rolling Stones' 'Street Fighting Man,' " said one student later.

"I was amazed at the fury that people showed that night," one participant said later. "People charging like gladiators with trash lids as shields, throwing rocks at the cops . . . . You saw people walking around with a light in their eyes and a look on their face that you just never experienced in everyday life.

"There were hours at a time when there was nothing to do but enjoy being in liberated territory."

Around midnight, people, who are still unidentified, broke down the front doors of the bank and successfully lit a fire inside. Bank records served as kindling. Hundreds of people participated in one way or another, then watched it burn through the night. By dawn, the building was a smoldering ruin.


The first Isla Vista riot--I.V. I as it later became known--ended several days later when then-Governor Ronald Reagan sent in the National Guard to militarily occupy the town. Subsequent riots I.V. II and I.V. III attempted in different ways to recreate that incredible feeling of liberation. The efforts exacted a heavy price.

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