Year of Rebellion: The 1970 Isla Vista Riots
Bill Allen And The First Isla Vista Riot
There are many possible explanations for the explosive protests on the campus of
University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the surrounding Isla Vista
community (IV). Prior to the 1970 rebellion, racial tensions between the
University and its minority students became heated, disagreements between the
students and the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department on drug enforcement
policies became more prevalent, students were increasingly disenchanted with
IV's absentee landlords and discontent with the nation's conduct of the War in
Vietnam was rampant. All these factors coalesced when a professor, Bill Allen,
was denied tenure.
Bill Allen (next image), an unconventional teacher of anthropology, was denied
the renewal of his teaching contract and a hearing from the UCSB
Administration despite a petition signed by 7,776 students.
"Students are charging that the decision is related to his radical politics and not
to academic merit. Allen was sympathetic to charges of University racism made
by the United Front and was prominent among supporters of the two-day strike
during the recent Berkeley occupation. Senior members of his department,
however, were mostly in the other camp on these issues." (El Gaucho, June 20,
What followed were mass rallies and sit down protests in front of the
Administration Building resulting in injury to twelve students and three
policemen, some broken windows and several arrests.
"In the final days of February, student unrest had spilled over into Isla Vista, and
it had become clear that its roots went far deeper than the Allen case. Both the
depth and scope of student grievance, particularly their feelings about the police,
were dramatized by the events surrounding an especially acrimonious encounter
between sheriff's deputies and I.V. residents on the afternoon of February 24."
(Jack Whalen and Richard Flacks, Beyond The Barricades; The Sixties Generation
Grows Up, ©1985 Temple University Press, P. 23).
The sparks started flying when deputies arrested a black student activist on a Los
Angeles warrant and one of the sheriff's vehicles was attacked. Gasoline was
poured on one of its tires and ignited. Another student activist was beaten by
deputies and arrested in front of the crowd. Throughout the rest of the day and
late into the night windows were broken at realty offices and at the Bank of
America in Isla Vista.