LA Free Press Festival Riot

LA Free Press Festival Riot

April 20, 1969

The LA Free Press’s Birthday Party

The second “festival” of 1969 was the LA Free Press Festival. I qualify the word festival because organizers planned only a one-day event and typically a festival was a multi-day event. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind that although it was only one day, there were a number of groups for whom this event was simply one of a series in Venice aimed at controlling what they saw as uncontrolled development of the area.


California was the birthplace of rock festivals whether they be called festivals, be-ins, fairs, or whatever. The 1967 Summer of Love had demonstrated the counter-culture’s positive and negative characteristics.


For the most part, the peaceful gatherings where youth enjoyed their music and other types of entertainment presented no issues to local governments. When the gatherings interfered with the everyday lives of other residents or when local law enforcement viewed (for any number of reasons) the youth’s behavior as immoral and illegal, conflict resulted.


Such were the circumstances that led to the LA Free Press celebrating its birthday with the LA Free Press Festival. Unfortunately, a well-intentioned event turned violent.


LA Free Press Festival Riot

The Los Angeles Free Press

LA Free Press Festival Riot

The LA Free Press–The Los Angeles Free Press–(also called “the Freep”)  was an underground newspaper of the 1960s, perhaps the first of that type.  Art Kunkin edited and published it weekly.


Unlike all the other festivals of 1969, the Free Press’s was to be both musical and political.


Venice had been an independent city until it merged with Los Angeles in 1926.  According to its site, “Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950s and 60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art.


Sounds like a good spot for a festival.


There is not much about who was scheduled to play. Country Joe and the Fish were there. In the book the place of music edited by Andrew Leyshot, David Matless, and George Revill, it reads, “In April 1969 Venice Beach hosted its first free concert, attempting to build upon the success of Be-Ins in the previous two years. In the mythology of L.A., the “Beach” was considered an ideal ecology of life for such revelry.”


LA Free Press Festival Riot

Incident

The times were one that the hum of confrontation between law enforcement and youth was a constant presence. Apparently a thrown bottle lighted the fuse that led to the incident. One of the lessons that Woodstock Ventures learned from this and other similar incidents was to avoid having an law enforcement presence on site.


LA Free Press Festival Riot

Tales of a Blue Meanie

Alan Cole from his book, Tales of a Blue Meanie, chapter 8, Riotous Behavior, described some background: Circus Saul [Blumenthal] and Fish Face [Sam] were radical capitalists – that’s what they called themselves, anyway. They hated LBJ, despised Richard Nixon even more and had pledged ten thousand dollars each to the newly formed organization “Businessmen For Peace.” They also vowed to stage various concerts up and down the state to raise awareness and funds for their cause.


LA Free Press Festival Riot

Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie

Phil Polizatto wrote in Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie


It was supposed to be a love-in/anti-war gathering. Right there on that expanse of beach between Pacific Ocean Park and where Venice proper started. The line up consisted of Spirit, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Taj Mahal, interspersed with anti-war speeches. For a change, we would be on the stage itself and not on scaffolds. Still, it was just more go-go dancing. And we’d be doing it for free just like all the other entertainers….


It was a wonderful day. Everyone was on a high. Spirit really got everyone on their feet. Dancing. Swaying. Gettin’ down! The speeches were empowering and solidified the crowd’s resolve against the war. They knew that the threat from the outside was now and forever a lie. They knew that the country had better start thinking in a new way. And they knew that these rallies were meant to attract the media and make people pay attention. They needed a venue where their opposition could be clearly seen and loudly heard. So they rose to the occasion and hooted and whistled and hollered at the top of their lungs in response to buzz words that echoed through the loudspeakers. But the crowd was there as much for the music as they were to make a statement. They were there to have a good time and have some fun.


A threatening police presence, a bottle perhaps thrown, and “Suddenly it was chaos. Clubs cracking skulls. Kids screaming and being trampled by both the cops and the crowd. Some people putting up a fight. Guys trying to rip the masks from the cops’ faces to get something to punch at. Feisty women kicking and biting their assailants. Kids trying to hang on to, but then violently bucked off, the bronco legs of police who were trying to pummel their dads. Lots of bleeding. Lots of pleading. “


LA Free Press Festival Riot

The Evening Outlook reported

LA Free Press Festival Riot

A local paper reported the next day that police moved in because of a planned orgy: “The plan was for people to form a huge circle around a couple on the beach who would have intercourse. Slowly, other couples would join in, [police Capt. Robert] Sillings said his reports revealed. One couple was arrested for lewd conduct after the girl danced topless while her partner fondled her, police said. The girl reportedly was told to put on her top several times and was arrested when she refused. Sillings said there were “numerous incidents” of girls peeling off their bathing suits. Six officers were injured by flying rocks and bottles and at least a dozen other people were hurt in fist fights and by broken glass. A dozen ambulances went to the scene during the day. The violence broke out late in the afternoon when officers attempted to arrest several individuals on suspicion of possession of marijuana and public intoxication.”


LA Free Press Festival Riot

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

US Labor History

Frank Little

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

August 1, 1917: after organizing a strike of metal miners against the Anaconda Company, six masked men dragged Wobbly organizer Frank Little from his Butte, Mont., hotel room and hung him from the Milwaukee Railroad trestle. Years later writer Dashiell Hammett would recall his early days as a Pinkerton detective agency operative and recount how a mine company representative offered him $5,000 to kill Little. Hammett says he quit the business that night.  (IWW article on Little) (see Sept 5)

Philadelphia Transportation Company

August 1, 1944: as the US entered World War II, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, quickly became one of America’s largest war production sources. As many as 600,000 workers relied on the Philadelphia Transportation Company (PTC) for transportation to factories and other workplaces.

                On August 1, 1944, white PTC employees started a strike to protest the company’s decision to promote eight black workers to the position of trolley driver, a job previously reserved for white men. The men were promoted after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Orders 8802 and 9436, which prohibited companies with government contracts from discrimination based on race or religion and forced companies to include a nondiscrimination clause in their contracts.

White PTC employees James McMenamin, James Dixon, Frank Thompson, and Frank Carney led the strike, which they threatened would continue until the black workers were demoted. The strike grew to include over 6000 workers, crippling war production and impacting the entire city. It prevented nearly two million people from traveling and cost businesses almost $1 million per day. (Hidden City Philadelphia article) (see Aug 3)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Black History

Marcus Garvey

August 1 > 31, 1920: the Universal Negro Improvement Association held its first International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World at Madison Square Garden and scheduled a massive parade in Harlem. During this convention, the UNIA adopts and signs a Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, adopts a “nation” flag with the colors of the Red, Black, and Green, and elects officials for its provisional government. Garvey was elected Provisional President of Africa. (BH, see March 1, 1921; see Garvey for expanded story)

Harlem Revolt

August 1, 1943: Harlem Riot of 1943, a NYPD policeman hit an African American woman who was being arrested for disturbing the peace at the Braddock Hotel in Harlem. Robert Bandy, a black soldier in the US Army tried to stop the police officer from striking the woman again. The situation rapidly escalated; the police officer drew his service revolver and shot Bandy in the shoulder.

                Bandy’s wound was not serious, but he was taken to a nearby hospital, and crowds quickly gathered at the hospital, the hotel, and police headquarters. An onlooker shouted that an African American soldier had been killed, provoking a riot.

                Hundreds of businesses were destroyed and looted, the property damage approaching $5,000,000. Overall, six people died and nearly 400 were injured. Five hundred men and women were arrested in connection with the riot. (see 20015 NY Daily News article)  Dail(BH, see Aug 11,; RR, see August 10, 1946; Harlem Riot 1964, see July 16, 1964)

Washington, DC Revolt

August 1, 1967: Race Revolts in Washington, D.C. (2008 Washingtonian article) (BH, see Aug 3; RR, see January 23, 1968) 

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Nuclear News

AEC

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

August 1, 1946: the Atomic Energy Commission was established as President Harry S. Truman signed the Atomic Energy Act, which transfered the control of atomic energy from military to civilian hands. Almost a year after World War II ended, Congress established the United States Atomic Energy Commission to foster and control the peace time development of atomic science and technology. The National Laboratory system was established from the facilities created under the Manhattan Project. and Argonne National Laboratory was one of the first laboratories authorized under this legislation as a contractor-operated facility dedicated to fulfilling the new Commission’s mission. (USNRC site) (see Dec 14)

NORAD

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

August 1, 1957: the United States and Canada announced the creation of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense) Command, a unified military unit tasked with early warning and defense coordination. NORAD brought the US and Canada into closer cooperation for air defense through a system of radar and sensors to guard against possible long-range Soviet strategic bombers armed with nuclear weapons.

                The US Army Corps of Engineers supervised the excavation of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado and the construction of the tech command and control headquarters. (NAADC site) (see Aug 26)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Calvin Graham

August 1, 1951: Graham left the US Marine Corps after injuring his back in a fall. (see Graham for expanded story)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Native Americans

Resolution 108

August 1, 1953: the federal policy of terminating Native-American tribes began on this day with the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 108. Termination meant that a tribe was no longer officially recognized as a sovereign nation by the federal government. Termination was part of the policy of assimilating Native-Americans into mainstream American life. Between 1953 and 1964, a total of 109 tribes were terminated. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska was the last to be terminated, in 1966.

                By the 1960s as a result of the Native American rights movement attitudes had changed among Native-Americans and other Americans. Both President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon supported a policy of self-determination. See President Nixon’s speech on July 8, 1970, when he declared “Forced termination is wrong,” and the end of the termination policy January 4, 1975. (Stanford School of Medicine article) (see August 15, 1953)

North Dakota Voter ID

August 1, 2016: U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland struck down a North Dakota law requiring photo IDs in order to vote, ruling that the law unfairly burdened the Native American voters who comprised one-fourth of the state’s electorate. Hovland rejected the state’s argument that the law was “necessary” to prevent voter fraud, writing that “[t]he undisputed evidence before the Court reveals that voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent.” (NY Times article) (see Aug 16)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

see August 1 Music et al for more

Moondog Alan Freed

August 1, 1954: Moondog Jubilee Alan Freed, working as a disc jockey in New York, throws the “Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars” at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. The performing line-up included black artists Fats Domino and Muddy Waters. (see February 23, 1955)

Bob Newhart

August 1 – September 25, 1960: comedian Bob Newhart’s The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart comedy album is Billboard #1.

Hard Day’s Night

August 1 – 14, 1964:  “A Hard Day’s Night” #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. (see Aug 11)

Atlantic City Pop Festival

August 1 – 3, 1969: Atlantic City (NJ) Pop Festival took place at the Atlantic City Race Track. Approximately 100,000 people were there.  (see Atlantic City for expanded story)

Concert for Bangladesh

August 1, 1971: George Harrison and Ravi Shankar organized and hosted The Concert for Bangladesh raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars for the hungry of the poor country. The concert ushered in a new type of proactive political activism (Beatles, see Sept 9; Bangladesh, see Dec 16; concert movie, see March 23, 1972)

MTV

August 1, 1981: MTV (Music Television) made its debut at 12:01 a.m. The first music video shown on the rock-video cable channel was, appropriately, Video Killed the Radio Star, by the Buggles. MTV’s original five veejays were Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, J.J. Jackson and Alan Hunter. MTV changed the way that popular music was presented from the traditional way of simply listening to watching as well as listening. (MTV, see March 1983; CM, see July 29, 1987)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Independence Day

August 1, 1960: Benin independent from France. (see Aug 3)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Austin Rampage

August 1, 1966: 25-year old Charles Whitman, a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a former Marine, killed 16 people and wounded 32 others during a shooting rampage on and around the university’s campus.

 August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Vietnam

August 1, 1968: 541,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam (see Aug 25 – 29)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Watergate

August 1, 1972: a $25,000 cashier’s check, apparently earmarked for the Nixon campaign, wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar, The Washington Post reports. (see Watergate for expanded story)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Nominations

August 1, 1972, Thomas Eagleton, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, withdraws from the race after revealing he was once treated for mental illness. (2012 NPR article)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Irish Troubles

August 1, 1981:  The seventh hunger striker died. Kevin Lynch (25) died after 71 days on hunger strike. Lynch was a member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). (see Troubles for expanded story)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

Terrorism

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

August 1, 1989: a terrorist group in Lebanon said that it had hanged hostage Marine Lieut. Col. William R. Higgins and distributed a grisly videotape that showed a figure identified as the American twisting at the end of a rope. (NYT article) (T, see Dec 18; Higgins, see July 6, 1990)

August 1 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

Black History

National Association of Colored Women Clubs

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31, 1896: The National Association of Colored Women Clubs (NACWC) was established in Washington, D.C. by the merger of the National Federation of African-American Women, the Women’s Era Club of Boston, and the National League of Colored Women of Washington, DC, as well as smaller organizations that had arisen from the African-American women’s club movement.

Founders of the NACWC included Harriet Tubman, Margaret Murray Washington, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell. Its two leading members were Josephine Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell. Their original intention was “to furnish evidence of the moral, mental and material progress made by people of color through the efforts of our women“. They organized to refute a letter written by James Jacks, the president of the Missouri Press Association, challenging the respectability of African-American women, and referring to them as thieves and prostitutes. (NACWC site) (see November 8, 1898)

Red Summer

July 31, 1919:  before noon on, angry white mobs had started more than thirty fires in the African American residential area of Chicago. Far from an isolated incident, these instances of arson were part of an extended barrage of violence perpetrated against Chicago’s black community in the summer of 1919 – a season that came to be known as “Red Summer” for the extensive racial violence that erupted in major cities throughout the country during that season. The five days of riots and attacks that upended Chicago are widely considered the worst of the Red Summer race Revolts.

When the riots ended on August 3rd, after intervention by the state militia, five days of gunfire, beatings, and burnings had left 15 whites and 23 African Americans killed, 537 people injured, and 1000 African American families homeless. (PBS article on Red Summer) (BH, see Aug 25; RR, see Oct 1)

Elijah Muhammad

July 31, 1960: Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, called for an all-black state. Membership in Nation of Islam estimated at 100,000. (see August)

Black & Chased dead

July 31, 1989: a New York State appeals court upheld the manslaughter and assault convictions of Jon Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Ladone in the Howard Beach attack and refused a defense request to reduce the prison sentences imposed on them.

In a unanimous decision, the five-judge panel characterized as ”vicious and wanton” the defendants’ conduct in the December 1986 incident that resulted in the ”senseless” death of one black man and the ”savage beating” of another. Such conduct ”cannot, and will not, be condoned nor trivialized,” it said.

”A message loud and clear must go forth that racial violence by any person or group, whatever their race, will not be tolerated by a just and civilized society, and that, when it does occur, it must be appropriately punished,” the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn said. The decision was written by Presiding Justice Milton Mollen.

Jason Ladone was released from prison after serving 10 years in April 2000 at age 29 and later became a NYC employee. In May 2001, Jon Lester was released and deported to his native England. Scott Kern was released from prison 2002.  (2000 NYT follow up report) (see  Nov 7)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

Feminism & Voting Rights

July 31, 1913:  after collecting suffrage petitions nationwide, automobile tours convene in Hyattsville, Maryland, and proceed to Washington, D.C. to present petitions to Congress. (see Nov 15)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

Religion/Education/Church/State

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31, 1925: William Jennings Bryan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. . (1990 NYT Beliefs article on Bryan) (see Scopes for expanded story)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31, Music et al

Stars of a Summer Night

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31 – August 27, 1961, Stars of a Summer Night by various artists is the Billboard #1 album.

Roots of Rock

July 31, 1966: WOR-FM  [NYC] began running a freeform-based progressive rock format for most of its broadcast day. Management was unable to come to an agreement with  AFTRA (the union that represents on air talent). As a result, the DJ’s did not start until October 8. (see WOR for expanded story)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

Japanese Internment Camps

July 31, 1980: President Carter signs the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Act which created a group of people appointed by the U.S. Congress to conduct an official governmental study of Executive Order 9066, related wartime orders and their impact on Japanese Americans in the West and Alaska Natives in the Pribilof Islands. (see Internment for expanded story)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

Nominations

July 31 – August 3, 2000: The Republican National Convention in Philadelphia nominated George W. Bush for President and Dick Cheney for Vice President.

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

LGBTQ

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

July 31, 2012: in Connecticut, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management. (LGTBQ, see Sept 4; DOMA, see June 26, 2013)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

Native Americans

July 31, 2013, Native Americans: as promised, three Native American organizations filed a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of a three-year-old Cherokee child at the heart of a protracted custody battle.

The National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Child Welfare Association and the Native American Rights Fund filed the lawsuit on Veronica Brown’s behalf in South Carolina’s federal district court after the state’s Supreme Court refused to allow a best interest hearing and ordered the lower family court to finalize the child’s adoption by a non-Native couple from James Island, S.C.

As a matter of law, the actions of the state courts of South Carolina have deprived the plaintiff (Veronica) of a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the matter of her current best interests before being transferred from her father to an adoptive couple,” according to the filing.

More than 40 tribes, attorneys general, scholars and organizations signed a letter in support of the lawsuit, including the Inter-tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, of which Veronica and Dusten Brown’s tribe, the Cherokee Nation, is a member. Through a spokeswoman, the council released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: “A severe injustice has been committed to an innocent Cherokee child and her loving family in Oklahoma. The Brown family, including Veronica, deserves their due process. They do not deserve to have their lives forever transformed by the South Carolina judicial system without cause or consideration. Indian children being removed from their families and homes is not a new story in Indian Country. Those dark days have reared their head again sadly in South Carolina. We will stand with Veronica, the Browns, and national tribal organizations fighting for fairness and justice.” (see  Veronica for expanded story)

July 31 Peace Love Art Activism

 

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