Over forty people were in Collier Park Sunday, joining the potluck picnic commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Collier Park Riot of 1971. We have written about this, go here for our earlier post.
With Dave Rice’s mastery of the grill, with Patty’s awesome potato salad, Frank’s popular chicken, Doug’s savory deviled eggs, and everybody’s elses food and drink, the picnic god shined the sun on the gathering that lasted happily into the late afternoon.
With horse-shoes clanging in the background, the pleasant blare of Sixties to early Eighties music on the boombox, dogs, kids, and locals mingled with veterans of the Collier Park Riot and OB Ragsters. Two TV news stations showed up to cover the event, and the music was turned down for a few informal speeches.
Gormlie gave a historical background to the days of community involvement to get the park established, and described the riot itself.
“We’re not glorifying violence,” he said, “in celebrating the riot and its aftermath, but it’s important to understand how it affected Ocean Beach.”
He described how after the riot, positive changes occurred in OB; environmental consciousness took a strong hold in the community; young people – who had suffered a wide prejudice from police and merchants – were no longed ignored, and that they were leaders in many projects, alternative institutions, and businesses that were created in OB.
Gormlie also briefly discussed how “progressive politics” and the “politics of being against the Vietnam war” became the norm in the community, how there was an influx of young people into OB because of what happened 40 years ago. Finally, he wound up by saying the riot and its aftermath gave a jump start to a whole host of community groups and alternatives, such as a free school, the food co-op, Ecology Action committee, the OB Planning Board, and even the OB Rag.
One of the reasons for the picnic, he said, was to raise awareness of Collier Park itself. Gormlie mentioned that even local community leaders didn’t know where it was. He also spoke of the current neglect, low-key maintenance, lack of kid’s play equipment, or even a public restroom at the park today. He urged people to contact Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s office.
Solidarity statements from Dickie Magidoff, Katy Franklin Marsh, Pete Bohmer and Mike Williams – all former OBceans – were read by Patty Jones, and then Mary Cairnes – whose brother Tom had been an organizer for the original protests and who had prompted us at the OB Rag to hold some sort of commemoration of the event – read her brother’s descriptive statement.
Colleen Dietzel, owner of the Green Store on Voltaire, spoke on the good things that come from community activism, and how the riot and its aftermath gave space to people like her who got involved later. And Larry O’Brian gave some history on David C. Collier – the good-hearted early San Diego developer -who gave the land to the City for what is now Collier Park. Turns out that Collier was instrumental in forming Balboa Park. Citing the re-naming of things that once were named after him, O’Brian called for the establishment of a “Remember David Collier Day.”
The afternoon of good vibes, delicious food, and a little Ocean Beach history came to an end, and the last partisans walked away with smiles. But not before a little hi-jinx in the porta-potty. The OB Rag wants to thank all who attended, who cooked or brought food, and who donated to the costs involved