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Political Conventions - The Summer of Love and Anarchy—40 Years On

Political Conventions - The Summer of Love and Anarchy—40 Years On

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Published by Allan Bonner

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Published by: Allan Bonner on Jan 23, 2012
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05/13/2014

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T
HE
S
UMMER OF
L
OVE AND
 A 
NARCHY 
—40 Y 
EARS
O
N
233
The Summer of Love andAnarchy—40 Years On
Barack Obama may qualify as a baby boomer,but it doesn’t matter.Sure,he was born towards the end of the period of high birth rates that followed World War II,but he was too young to know the turmoil of the 1960s.Bill Clinton was a president of the 1960s,and we’ll never have another one.Sure,as late as the 2024 election,candidate in his or her early 70s might come forward and even win.But references to the protests and issues of the 1960s that the candidate experienced as a young teenager will seem as out of place as some of Senator McCain’s references.The 2008 US presidential election is the last political gasp of the children of the 60s.So it was with nostalgia that I reflected on one of the seminal protests of the era in 
TheHill Times
.
The Whitney Museum of American Art is not the only place celebrating the 40
th
anniversary of the Summer of Love—the politicizing momentof a generation.The
New York Times 
Style section recently celebrated the fashion of theera. Vancouver newspaper
The Province 
on the west coast of Canadahad a big spread on the topic, focusing on the politics and social agita-tion of those days. 1967 was the year when I first visited Vancouver asakid, returning the next year to live.Up and down the West Coast was the place to be in the late 1960s.There were a few early birds who’d visited Haight-Ashbury (TheHaight) in San Francisco and took the feeling south to LA and Northto“Van,” but generally, we were a little late on the uptake in Canada.Feeling nostalgic over both a recent trip to Vancouver and my visittothe Whitney, I googled and giggled as I reminisced.It wasn’t until October 23 of 1968 that Yippie (Young IndependentParty) Jerry Rubin spoke to a crowd of about 600 at Simon FraserUniversity. He called for the overthrow of the government and thedestruction of the university system. The next day, he and 2,000students invaded the University of British Columbia faculty club. Somemay have been members of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society),
 
but most probably had no allegiance. Some may have been motivatedby the May student uprising in Paris. At any rate, as a protest againstauthority, the crowd left the building with about $5,000 in booze andother goods. A few days later, on the 26
th
of October, 1,500 peoplemarched to the US consulate to protest the war in Viet Nam.One way in which Vancouver was ahead of its time was in the creationof Greenpeace. When you read that the environmental organization was formed in 1971—don’t believe it. I was part of Greenpeace protestson environmental issues long before that. The big issue we debated inthose local protests was the irony of all the garbage left behind, espe-cially the metal buttons.In Vancouver as everywhere else, the entire “60s movement” slopped well into the 1970s. On May 8, 1970 several hundred demonstratedagainst the invasion of Cambodia and the killing of Kent StateUniversity students. They smashed windows at the US consulate andburned an American flag. That night more protesters demanded thattheir comrades be released from jail and a three-hour battle broke out with police. And then came the highlight (or lowlight) of the protest movement inCanada—the invasion of Blaine, Washington. This marked one of thefew violations of the undefended US-Canadian border since 1812.I was a young high-school student, and I was there. As in mostprotests, few were sure what it was about. There was anger at every-thing in those days—Amchitka nuclear tests, Viet Nam and environ-mental degradation.Our target was the border crossing, not Blaine itself. I tried to stay onthe Canadian side, sitting on the lawn at the famous Peace Arch.Occasionally an organizer with a bullhorn would come out and tell usall to move back because we were sitting on the US side. For years Ithought that was all there was to the Blaine invasion—until my recentnostalgic googling. What I hadn’t seen at the time was that a crowd of somewhere between50 and 600 allegedly crossed the border into downtown Blaine (popu-lation: a couple of thousand), vandalizing storefronts, cars and a localmemorial dedicated to veterans of previous wars. They burned a USflag, threw rocks and fought with locals. The mayor met the crowdholding his .38-caliber pistol.I didn’t see it, but today’s Google accounts say the Peace Arch wasvandalized too. I did hear that some fellow protesters had stoned atrain carrying American-made cars into Canada, causing about $50,000in damage to about 90 cars. I remember asking the kid next to me why they did that. The reply was that the cars were “a symbol of American
 234 T
HE
S
UMMER OF
L
OVE AND
 A 
NARCHY 
—40 Y 
EARS
O
N

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