(continued from “Collier Park“)
New Blood Takes Over
It was the early summer of 1971; the original activist core of the Rag had melted away, as Gormlie had been forced to leave town in the aftermath of the riot, as Blakey focused on building a sailboat and doing workplace organizing at Convair, and as Lyons moved back to the UCSD area to work for Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
Fortunately, a new crowd emerged to take up the Rag’s mantle. When Republicans announced that they were holding their 1972 Convention in San Diego, activists from around the country – with fresh images of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention dancing in their heads – flocked to San Diego and Ocean Beach to take part in the anticipated demonstrations during the GOP convention. Many felt that an historic event was about to take place here, and wanted to be part of that history.
(click on the image to the left to see a larger version,
or click HERE to see the entire issue)
The new publishing core included local Doug Porter, another Point Loma High graduate – who along with a few others had published a forerunner to the Rag, the “OB Liberator“. It also included activists in the burgeoning anti-war community: Peter Bohmer, a professor at San Diego State, Pam Martin, George Katsiaficas, Paula Tharp, Kenny Eason, Judy and Trish (although no one put their actual name in the staff box, it was “Thomas Paine, Alligator Dog, Kenny Jive-ass Goodvibes, Red Zombies, Marion Delgado, Groucho Marx…”). Under their tutelage, the Rag took on the appearance of a small booklet with as many as 28 pages, stapled in the middle, and was utilized as a genuine organizing tool, and increasingly like a counter-convention magazine focusing on the war and other international issues, and less on community issues.
The Rag was definitely enhanced with a renewed internationalist flavor and it covered a wider variety of subjects — articles about yogurt, natural food, next to a pieces on Cuba, Vietnam, which would be across from one on “Growin’ Dope!”, then turn the page and see one about police brutality. It was strongly against the war, naturally, and it continued taking on issues around the police. In the mid-May 1971 issue (there’s no date on the cover) the paper provided a police complaint form with instructions to file it at the legal aid office on Voltaire.
In terms of design, however, the lay-out quality had diminished, less attention to the details apparent, and much of the rhetoric had become more strident, if that was possible (“death to the fascist pigs!”). On the other hand, the paper had created different sections, a telephone page providing important numbers, a “Street Law Sheet”, “OB Flashes” – tidbits and short newsy pieces with an irreverent tone, movie reviews, — and significantly — advertisements. The Black was an early advertiser; Love’s Water Beds would take out a full page ad.
The Rag and Organizing Issues
The Rag was being used in conjunction with a new legal rights office that opened in the 4900 block of Voltaire that announced it was providing counseling for military people, rap groups for women, and programs on such issues as tenants’ rights. The office, called the “STP” (Serve the People) office became the center of organizing and outreach efforts by this core group of staffers and their friends. The store front drew the attention of members of the Nazi Party(OB has always had a visible but very tiny racist right wing – uniformed Nazis, Posse Comitatis), who dropped by to leave literature and veiled threats. That weekend a beer bottle had been thrown through an office window. The next issue of the Rag, of course, insinuated that the Nazis had done it.
Parallel to the developing consensus across OB that the urban design plan, the Precise Plan, was a bad idea for the community, and that there had to be indeed protections of the coast, of views, of the community itself, there was another nastier undercurrent of sabotage. Periodically since the late sixties, apartment construction projects had been torched and consumed in arsonist flames. The late May – early June 1971 issue of the Rag had a front-page article about another such complex on the 5000 block of Narragansett that had burned down on May 3rd. The owner of the project was reputedly the same developer who was building in Collier Park. Most if not all of these burnings were never resolved.
In addition, as part of the general anti-war campaign – then under the banner of the campaign for the “People’s Peace Treaty”, organizers across the country – including in OB — targeted the Bank of America. The Bank was a mega-bank, and stood as a financial supporter to war profiteering corporations, as well as a money linchpin to anti-farmworker legislation. Picket signs were seen in front of the Newport Avenue branch (now a retail store) a number of times. In early June, NEL, the Naval Electronics Lab, the target of a huge blockade a year ago during the May 1970 student strikes after Nixon had invaded Cambodia, became the site for another demo. On June 11th, about 100 protesters gathered at the Lab’s gates, only to be met by nearly the same numbers of police. Any attempts to cross the same boulevard that had been blocked a year before, was met with threats by police of arrest. It was a different moment.
The OB Study: Anatomy of a White, Youth Ghetto
Part of the core Rag staff was involved in a study and survey of Ocean Beach. A collection of professors and students from San Diego State and Grossmont College collaborated on the project, titled “Political and Economic Relationships In a White Youth Ghetto.” This collaboration, which included Bohmer and John Hardesty – another professor at State who lived in OB -, sent pollsters door to door in part of the northwest quadrant of OB asking a series of political and lifestyle questions. The underlying quest was to determine whether Ocean Beach had the seedbed or possibility to represent “the vanguard or the potential for a new American Revolution.”
The results were not all that surprising, as reported in the OB Rag (Vol. 1, no. 17, page 6): first of all, over half of the residents within the survey area (west of Sunset Cliffs, between Voltaire and Narragansett) had lived in OB for less than one year; given that, there was a general attitude that Ocean Beach was a better place to live than elsewhere in San Diego; an overwhelming majority opposed the construction of the jetty; and a sense of community was shown by respondents voicing the need for more free or low-cost community services, like a child care center, medical and legal clinics, and a food co-op.
In addition, the survey showed that there was a very strong anti-war sentiment within the community, as two-thirds of the 19 to 24 year age group and 58% of the entire sample approved calls for an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Indo-China. 73% reported that an individual had the right to refuse to serve in the armed services. 63 % believed that marijuana should be legalized – this was of all ages, whereas three-quarters of the 19 to 24 group felt so. On police issues, 56% favored local community control of the police, and 40% agreed that police harassment was one of the five worst things about living in OB.
Yet responses on racism and sexism were mixed. Most polled believed there was some pattern of racism against African-Americans; and 43% felt that Black people were subject to some discrimination, while another 40% believed that Blacks were an oppressed group with an inferior status; less than 10% thought that Blacks were treated equally with whites.
The study found consciousness about sexism lagged in that around half of the respondents believed that women were subject to some discrimination, while only 8% felt women were an oppressed group; 24% said women were treated equally to men, and 18% believed women were treated better than men. The OB Rag summarised:
Altogether the survey tells us there is at least the beginning of a revolutionary consciousness in OB, but with a lot of work still left to be done. For instance, it really isn’t enough to be against the war and the police, if males still relate to women in the old chauvinistic ways. Even a complete radical consciousness isn’t enough, if it isn’t coupled with a willingness to act.
At the end of its analysis, the Rag concluded:
Working for real control of our community is a long struggle lasting many years. It must become a way of life for us. Then the potential for revolution becomes a reality.
The Rag had survived through to the summer. Not only had it stayed alive, the energy of the anti-war crew had made it a very nearly regular publication that hit the streets of OB just about every two weeks. And it began to get a reputation for being a feisty little publication.
Looking Back On This Period
This version of the Rag took up the issues highlighted by the initial core: tenants’ problems, police harassment – but more successfully. Much of the rhetoric and perspective during this period was reflective of the “heavy-revy” posturing of that sector of the left. It was a posturing characterized by strong left-wing sloganeering, an un-compromising attitude, and an idealistic solidarity with “the third world within and without the empire’s borders.” There was, however, during this period of the paper, a certain disconnect between the activists, as idealistic as they could be, and the rest of the community. This was reflective in the second NEL demonstration in May 1971. Organizers somehow expected a repeat of the year before — a different historical moment — when several thousands blocked the military lab’s gates. This time, a hundred showed up and organizers were forced by the police presence to fold up their original plans of disruption.
Fortunately during this period, the Rag staff included a number of left-wing feminists, who although they could be faulted with falling into the same over-all ‘heavy-revy’ rhetorical posturing, they still brought a fresh and feisty anti-male chauvinism to the paper, which was reflective in articles, graphics and cartoons. For a while, the Furry Freak Brothers were replaced with more politically-correct drawings of women throwing off the chains of gender repression. Strong on message, light on humor.
By the mid-August issue, the front page graphic foretold a change that was taking over the Rag. Up to then, front page graphics were usually about the war, Nixon, or a corrupt justice system. This time, it was prancing cherubs and children upholding banners that announced, “OB Community School”, “We Are the Children of the Earth.”
After scandals disrupted the Republican plans to hold their convention in San Diego, forcing them to move it to Miami, most of the anti-war crowd who managed the Rag wanted to continue their focus on the Vietnam War and the GOP convention. A year later, they would actually sent carloads of activists all the way to Miami that summer to take part in demonstrations. In the mean time, once again, the core staff shifted. For the third time within a year. Luckily for the Rag and for OB, yet another group of local activists were waiting in the wings to take the stage.
(continue to “The Rag Once Again“)