Why the Collier Park Riot in March 1971 Was a Watershed Event for Ocean Beach

by on March 24, 2011 · 27 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, OB Time Machine, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Popular

The following article was originally published on March 24, 2011


40th Anniversary to be Commemorated this Weekend

This coming March 28th is the 40th anniversary of the infamous “Collier Park Riot” – an event that reminds me of the refrain from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,”  which claimed: “… hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year, ….”

Front page of OB Rag “Riot Special”, published less than a week after the riot. (Click on the image for a legible version.)

And like the pre-Civil War America to whom Longfellow penned his famous poem, the Ocean Beach of the 21st century has forsaken its very own history that made it what it is today – a celebrated iconoclastic corner of the hippie counter- culture that has consciously set itself apart from mainstream Southern California.  And it is true, that hardly a man or woman now alive who lives in Ocean Beach remembers that famous day when the youth of the community stood up to “the Man.”

To counter the sands of time burying all memory of what happened at the end of March 40 years ago, the OB Rag has steadfastly attempted to rekindle the knowledge, if not the recollection, of the confluence of forces that erupted into the largest and most widespread riot in the history of Ocean Beach, a riot that made OB what it is today.

The Peace Protest That Became a Riot

Let’s briefly recount …, back then – after months of meetings, lobbying, and education of the community about the efforts by the City of San Diego to sell off the remaining parcel of land in northeast Ocean Beach that had been donated to “the children of San Diego” by D.C. Collier – an early altruistic developer, and going nowhere, a protest demonstration was called in response.  The sale of the land was ostensibly to go to developers who were to build more apartments at the site.

Actually the protest began as a joint action that was initially against the Vietnam War, and then by design, morphed into a gathering at the future park site, which involved hundreds if not a few thousand OBcians and local students.  Many, many people were at the war protest down at the beach. They then very peacefully walked up the sidewalks along Voltaire Street to the empty lots sitting atop the hill at Greene Street and Soto.  At the site itself, activists had organized a free food line, a band was setting up, and the idea was to have people start to clean up the large lot, strew with old asphalt, glass, and the junk of decades of abandonment.

Demonstrators walk up sidewalks on Voltaire Street towards the park. Police on motorcycles follow.

The OB Rag along with an organization called OB Ecology Action – along with supporters from the OB Town Council – had been waging a campaign to “Save the Park” from development, as the City appeared to be bent on nixing Collier’s intent, and allowing yet more apartments to be built in a already congested and blighted community.

To make a longer story short, a platoon of San Diego police officers appeared, and after ordering the crowd to disperse, attacked the crowd by running into their midst with batons at the ready.  The youthful gathering resisted, and fought the cops for hours into the night, as the rioters danced with the police all the way down to the beach.

Backside (Page 2) of the OB Rag “Riot Special.” (Click on image.)

Full disclosure: I was there and had been one of the organizers of the original event. Up at the hill after the beach rally, the police announced that the assembly was illegal because people blocked the streets.  I then helped clear the streets.  But this was not good enough and the police still attacked.  After the initial charge by the police, I recall looking up at the sky at one point as I was trying to make my way back to my Etiwanda house and seeing hundreds of rocks raining down on the custodians of the establishment.  I then was caught up in a tangle with one officer, and fearing for my safety, I boogied out of there and left OB for the safety of a local campus.

Fifty people were arrested – some right out of their front yards, and some for simply being in the vicinity of the action. At least one patrol car was burned, one cop lost an eye, and many more citizens were injured by the police.  (I was also arrested months later, went to trial, and did a few months in custody for assault.)  When the dust finally settled after the fracas – Ocean Beach had changed forever.

The riot had occurred on a Saturday.  On Wednesday, a picket line had formed in front of the SDPD storefront office on Newport Avenue, protesting the transgressions by the police on a peaceful gathering of citizens.  The OB Rag even printed a “Riot Special” edition.

That very next weekend on April 4th, people returned to the site and cleaned it up.

The Dust Settles – A Park Is Born

In the aftermath of the riot, in the midst of trials of those arrested, and in the intervening months, others in the community – such as the Point Loma Garden Club – stepped forward to pick up the baton for the park and forced the City to relent.

Finally in the early Seventies, a park was born, and today the “L-shaped” Collier Park still stands as a neighborhood resource, with a grove of towering Eucalyptus trees, at least one giant Torrey Pine, cement picnic tables, a horse-shoe pit, and green lawns for locals and their kids and dogs to romp on.  A city maintenance facility sits quietly by, the OB Garden takes up another corner of the land. And an expansive Native Plant Garden is attached to the Park by a short trail.

Collier Park, bordered by Greene, Soto, and Nimitz Blvd. In right foreground is the Native Plant Garden. Top center is the Community Garden.

Yet, recently, the Park has suffered some neglect: the children’s play equipment has rusted and much of it has been removed.  Sections of the park don’t appear to be maintained.  And one gets the sense that outside of locals, no one really knows that the park exists – which is quite okay with some of those locals.

But the Collier Park Riot and the subsequent development of the site as a real park were harbingers of the coming role that youthful progressives, grassroots activists, and hippie merchants were to play in the community. They set the stage for the Ocean Beach that we know today – celebrated by mainstream media, tourists, local businesses and those who appreciate the quality of life the community now symbolizes.

With batons at the ready, police charge crowd, March 28, 1971.

Why Was the Collier Park Riot a Watershed Event for OB?

Mention the word “riot” to anyone today, and with their modern day sensibilities, they will probably cringe and shrink away. And rightly so, for most associate the term with something ugly, violent, and dastardly. In fact, beach goers think of the Mission Beach skirmish between police and drunken young men a few years back that lost them their right to drink at the beach.

Yet, life is contextual. And back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, riots – violent conflicts involving the “have-nots” were much, much more common. There had been the riots and explosions of the African-American neighborhoods across the country, forcing the civil rights movement into a Black Power struggle. These  convulsions  helped pave the way for an entire people to be accepted by-in-large into mainstream society, and allowed for the election of the first Black President – Barack Obama – decades later.

I recall sitting in a Dennys restaurant in Watts in 1970 with some Black friends.  The entire place was filled with African-Americans including the waitresses. My friend – who was a local printer – told me that before the Watts Riot five years earlier, Blacks couldn’t even get served there.

The same can be said for the Chicano and Mexican-American communities. Not until the explosive demonstrations  of the  “Chicano Moratorium” in East LA, for example – where sheriff deputies twice attacked peaceful marches – resulting in deaths, including LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar, did the establishment feel the pressure to open up society for for this minority of our people.

The “Stonewall Riot” of 1969 in New York City was significant for the gay community in standing up to its oppression, leading to acceptance decades later among many of gay and lesbian rights.

And on the college campuses in the late Sixties and early Seventies, there were numerous riots across the nation where students literally fought back  against the violent intrusions of campus and local police, forcing an acknowledgment from the establishment of the strength and breadth of the anti-war movement.  In California and in most other states, these “riots” forced the closure of many colleges and university campuses in protest of the US war in Southeast Asia.

For months in late 1969 and in 1970, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan – who had called for a “blood bath” against protesting students – could not appear at a state-run campus without causing a riot.  The college disturbances made it more costly for a military-industrial-university complex to wage an unjust war, and eventually helped lead to the end of the Vietnam conflict.

Doug Porter’s editorial in first OB Rag edition printed after the “Riot Special”. (Click on image for legible version.)

Sociologists look at the underlying causes of violent reactions such as riots, and try to analyse why people become violent against those who are paid to protect the status quo – the police. Sometimes, it was the police themselves who started the “riot,” as during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, so concluded the official report of the Kerner Commission.

The role of violence and riots when specific communities literally rise up in reaction to a history of oppression and antagonism from officialdom has special meaning to Ocean Beach.  For it is no secret that in the early years of the counter-culture in OB, there was a tough edge of prejudice leveled against the young by police, by other government agencies, by local merchants and the San Diego establishment in general.

In fact, the first OB Rag issue to appear after the riot other than the “Riot Special” ran an editorial by Doug Porter – who today writes for our website – and asked “Why Riot?” (Late April edition, 1971).

Porter wrote:

“… what happened on March 28, was preceded by numerous events which caused tensions to rise in Ocean Beach. Some sort of outburst was inevitable.  Perhaps if everything had been peaceful on March 28th, the people of Ocean Beach would have found a peaceful way to channel their tensions.  Much energy has and is being expended on projects like the Inbetween [ a youth drop-in center on Newport], the OB Food Co-op [the forerunner to People’s Food], OB Ecology Action, and, of course, the OB Rag. “

Doug then recounted how a legal aid and assistance office had opened up on Voltaire, community women were forming “rap groups”, and counseling services for servicemen had been set up.

“Yet, with all this peaceful activity going on, the power structure (the cops, city government, Copley Press [who published the conservative San Diego Union], the mafia, the minutemen [right-wing terrorists in cahoots with the FBI], C. Arnholt Smith [“Mr. San Diego” who defrauded his own bank and went to jail] and assorted others) continue to harass and attack young people in Ocean Beach.  This on-going harassment is the number one reason why there was a riot in Ocean Beach.”

And then he goes on citing a litany of examples of “power structure politrickin’ in OB” and San Diego, tying in the jetty battle, scandals in City Hall, undercover cops who shot a local, mafia efforts to push “hard drugs like heroin and reds”and recruit young women as prostitutes – all the while untouched by the police, housing inspectors targeting youthful residents, the push to make OB “another Miami Beach”, town council shenanigans in ousting the first “freak” from their board, and the terrorism of particularly named police officers.

And then he concludes, using the euphemism of the day:

“Is it any wonder that the people of OB are uptight? People riot because there are such things as PIGS that try to control their lives.”

What the Collier Park Riot Means Today

Long Branch Ave, Labor Day 1968. The author is shirtless standing on porch on the extreme right middle in the photo. (We believe photo was taken by Arthur Fox, a Point Loma HS classmate of the author.)

The riot in late March of 1971 at what was to become Collier Park was OB’s last full-fledged riot. There had been at least two other outbursts of significance that involved the police and aggressive resistance by the young of the community.

In the late Sixties, there had been a number of small skirmishes between the police and young people at the beach. Usually they began with people throwing or slinging water balloons across the sand. The one that stands out occurred on Labor Day 1968, where the last block of Long Branch Avenue became a virtual war zone.  This was an apolitical action – but it drew hundreds of kids to the rooftops and porches on that block as the police scrambled to gain control, even to the point where the future police chief himself, Ray Hoobler, led efforts to send the kids home using high-frequency anti-riot sound equipment.

Future Police Chief Ray Hoobler speaking to the kids, Labor Day 1968.

Next of note was the Jetty Battle of the Summer of 1970.  The Army Corps of Engineers and the City of San Diego attempted to install a new, long jetty at the beach between south and north OB. Locals saw this as an effort to build a marina as part of the “Miami Beachization” of OB.   Everyone from surfers, ecologists, students to old ladies opposed it – and through a combined effort of nearly nightly street battles and legal action the jetty was halted.  Its rump still remains as a monument to this victory on the sand.

This “riot” – or actually series of mini-riots – had a political edge, an environmental edge.  Surfers were opposed to it because they feared it would destroy the righteous waves of the Big Jetty of North OB.  Ecologists opposed it as it would destroy and disturb wildlife, progressives opposed it as it was more development to a community already over-developed.  Others saw it as a proverbial battle between David and Goliath and were inspired by resistance to a ‘top-down’ governance pattern that the community had always suffered.

The Jetty battle rages as OBceans clamor over rocks to prevent crane from dropping its load.

Seven months after the successful conclusion of the Jetty Battle came Collier Park. It was the largest and most wide-spread disturbance in OB history as it involved street fighting from the future park site all the way to the beach, a distance of about a mile.  It was also the most political, in that it was an action that started as an anti-war protest and as a demonstration in favor of needed park space.  OB has not seen anything like it since.

Inspiration and Momentum

Once the park was finally created, it and the riot that preceded it established a number of bench marks for OB. Call it “inspiration” or call it momentum, grassroots activity in the community took a leap.  Here’s how it all played out:

  • First, the riot and the campaign for the park firmly established ecological and environmental interests and concerns as a major political force in Ocean Beach. Coupled with the Jetty Battle, the riot and its aftermath crystallized  the “green-ness” of OB.  From then on to this day, OB has been known for this strong current of ecological fervor and grounding. Over the next several years, this was translated into a momentous anti-development movement among residents and businesses that led to the “re-writing” of the OB Precise Plan and the destruction of plans for any local “Miami Beach”.
  • Second, the riot affirmed the youth-led progressive grassroots activism as a real, genuine and major force in the community. No longer would the youth be ignored by local merchants or civic organizations.  It wasn’t all about the young, but young people were leaders in every social, cultural, economical and political project born over the next decade. And anti-war and radical politics were accepted and allowed to incubate in this once, sleepy seaside village.  The now firmly-planted emphasis on grass-roots democracy flowered into strong efforts to bring urban planning into the purview of the affected local small property owners, businesses, and residents – even if they were tenants. The OB Planning Board grew directly out of these efforts to rein in the power of the elite and to create “green” urban planning from the bottom up.
  • Third, the riot re-affirmed OB as an ‘anti-authority’ and anti-establishment community, and as the center of hippie culture in San Diego, the anti-pole to a staunchly conservative town that Richard Nixon called his “lucky city.”  Ocean Beach became recognized as the capital of the counter-culture – and it still is even today.  OB became the symbol of a community resisting the mainstream culture and politics, with its conflicting aspects such as its “laid-back” characterization juxtaposed with its “in your face” reputation. Mainstream media loves to laud OB this way, and every now and then, the local press will publish fluff pieces about OB.
  • Fourth, with the Collier Park Riot cementing OB as a beachhead of left-wing and anti-war politics, activists flocked to the community from across the city and from across the nation. Drawn to the potential of the Republican Convention coming to San Diego in 1972, there was an exodus of left-wing young people to San Diego and particularly to OB. In terms of actual numbers, this draw only included a few dozen people, but for a few years they helped staff the new projects and groups, boosting OB’s intellectual reserves and stature.  Even philosophy giant Herbert Marcuse – the icon of the New Left who taught at UCSD – came to OB to give lectures. Many of these individuals who stuck around later became college professors, nurses, doctors, iron workers, teachers, union heads, typesetters, lawyers, prosecutors, journalists, merchant marines, social service administrators,  political consultants – all greatly contributing to the political and social life of the city at large.
  • Finally, the riot and its aftermath provided a shot in the arm to those who jumped into doing progressive projects locally in OB, and who were into building alternative institutions to the moribund mainstream institutions. An OB free school was developed; a legal aid office on Voltaire was opened for awhile; the organic food co-op went from a backyard shack to a storefront on Voltaire; OB Ecology Action became a mainstay in the community for years; and the OB Rag experienced a whole new crop of talented grassroots journalists. Over the next few years, the forerunner to the OB Planning Board formed – the OB Community Planning Group.  A civil rights group – the OB Human Rights Committee – exploded into being over night in response to police harassment – which eventually led to reforms in police practices. A women’s group WAR formed in response to high incidence of rapes in the community.

    Storefront on Voltaire.

Activists joined the Town Council; young businesspeople with long hair and hippie roots – the “hip-oisie” – opened stores on or close to Newport and eventually took over the merchants’ organization, ushering in a new era of the Ocean Beach business environment. An organic restaurant – the first in the area – opened for awhile on Newport.  The Left Bank – a two-story building which housed a community bookstore, a crafts store, meeting space, and office for the OB Rag – opened in the structure that once held the original Bank of America (where Starbucks is now).

All of this, the renewed environmental activism, the affirmation and acceptance of progressive politics, the reaffirmation of OB as the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego, and the influx of progressive and radical young activists into OB – produced this resurgence in local political projects and organizations over the next decade. These led to new victories and successes.  Projects and new groups stood on the shoulders of the groups that came before them. The OB Rag was printing 10,000 issues every two weeks, a new Child Care Center opened its doors, teachers from the Free School helped to form the Community School which used resources at OB Elementary.  Several OB businesses collected a “community tax” which was then consensually distributed to new projects.

Over the years since the Collier Park Riot, each new era has added its mark on top of this totempole of community activism. There was the successful crusade against a porn theater; new businesses opened which catered to the young and hip; a renewed anti-development effort in the early Nineties occurred; and the formation of the OB Grassroots Organization (OBGO) during the early years of this century blew fresh life back into OB’s street level activism.

Forty years ago, the youth of Ocean Beach took a stand. In its aftermath, a park was born. And from then, the community witnessed and experienced an era of activism that was ushered in, and combined with the counter-culture nature of OB, created the Ocean Beach that we know today.

A small commemoration will be held this Sunday, March 27th at noon at Collier Park, to recognize, enjoy and share the trials and tribulations and successes of a long-forgotten history, a history that after this week should be known by every OBcean … no matter where they live.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

doug porter March 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

wow. i said all those things?
no wonder the cops raided our house after collier park. (they didn’t find anything to arrest us for, but we were held incommunicado for several hours while they tore the place up) since the cops were unsuccessful, we got a full dose of harassment from the local branch of the Minutemen (by then calling themselves the Secret Army Organization) that included dusting up one of our cars with micro-fine CS (tear gas) powder.
looking back, the generational self-centeredness (young people vs. the “pigs”) seems foolish. at the bottom of all this was money. they had it. we didn’t. and the cops were sent in to keep it that way. fast forward 40 years and those cops are now in the cross-hairs of the “tax-exempt” class.


Frank Gormlie March 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

Doug, today and then – you da man, man!


Steve Zivolich March 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Sorry I missed this event, up at Cal State LA doing doing my anti-war stuff; anyway, sorry I will not be able to attend the 3/27/11 event as well; have fun!


Allen Lewis March 25, 2011 at 9:36 am

I can’t say I’m sorry I missed the 71 event but do support the effort, you see I was already in jail. But I very much remember the 68 clash with the cops, I lived in a small house on Brighton just off Abbott st. So you see it was purity much in my front yard. I remember seeing and then a picture of cops marching up LongBranch st. That night I was one of the lucky ones that should have gone to jail but the cops let me go, there was some mercy given to some.


Sarah March 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Hi Allen- I see that you’re a member of a band called “Fidalgo Swing”. Without much research I’m guessing that you’re in my old neck of the wo0ds. I moved to OB from Anacortes about four years ago. Strange connections appear on the old OB Rag… say hello to the tulips for me.



Dave Chase March 25, 2011 at 10:06 am

Nice brief historical review Frank, very relevant, thanks.
The pictures were a nice touch.
I was a young teen living in Scottsdale AZ, at the time, so I am not a riot vet. But I am planning on coming by your event. I’ll bring chips and salsa.
Regards to all,
Dave Chase


Richard March 25, 2011 at 10:22 am

Great reminder of our local history. Thanks for the article.
Now for a shameless plug–
Our group works at the Native Plant Reserve on the 1st Saturday and 3rd Sunday of each month to care that little hidden gem. Come by and lend a hand or join me for a guided tour.
Allen, what was your address on Brighton at that time? I live at 5125 and am always trying to piece together who lived there previously. So far I have made contact and gotten pictures of the people that lived in the house in the early 50’s.
I love the history of our area.


Frank Gormlie March 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

Richard, hopefully some of your folks will attend the picnic on Sunday at noon.


Nancy March 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

So glad for the background, Frank, and as usual, written so well.

I moved to 4656 Greene St., on 2/22/71, and too early to know anything about
OB goings-on at the time, and don’t remember hearing about this event or any
coverage. It was enough getting over the week’s car trip from South Bend, IN
with new husband, but sure glad we ended up in OB. Didn’t know anyone, and
went to a rental agency the day after we got here, and he pointed out OB as where the “now generation” lives. He had a big hard 3 ft. map with the areas of SD; he first pointed one area out and said “I can’t tell you why you shouldn’t go there, due to
laws, but it isn’t a place you want to look at.” Once we heard OB was near the beach and of course where the “now generation” was, we knew where we wanted to live.
It’s been 40 yrs. and quite a history to celebrate.
Will be there with peanut butter bars.


Frank Gormlie March 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Nancy, the big event occurred a month or more after you moved in, and must have gone down your street there on Greene. Newlyweds! Wow, no wonder you missed it – lol. I lived in the 2300 block of Etiwanda – we had sort of an OB Rag collective going, and that’s where we published our newspaper. Hope to see you Sunday.


Tom Cairns March 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

As usual, an excellent analysis, Frank. I too, was at the house on Saratoga when the cops raided it, taking us all in. They put four of us together in the backseat of the cop car I was in. I was working with the OB People’s Peace Treaty group, and a friend of Peter Bohmer’s, from San Diego State, had written the guerrilla theater play about Vietnam, “Wham Bam, Thank You Ma’am, A Whole Decade In Vietnam.” (In 1971, the US had been in Vietnam a full ten years). We had performed the skit at both San Diego State, and Southwestern College, and did it down on the beach the day of the Collier Park rally. I was the “Pentagon” character, so I had borrowed a Marine uniform from one of the MDM guys to wear. Following the skit and speeches at the beach, everyone headed to Collier Park. I had a bullhorn, as well as a pole with a home-made Viet Cong flag, which we used in the guerrilla theater skit. (By the way, that same flag was the one that was raised over Ft. Wilderness on Tom Sawyer’s Island during the Yippie Invasion of Disneyland on Aug. 6, 1970–Hiroshima Day.) When the people got to Collier Park, the band was setting up at the house across the street, tables and grills for the hot dogs and food were being set up and everyone was milling around. Since the band was across the street from the park, everyone was just in front, blocking the street, which is what the police used to intervene. I was using the bullhorn, announcing the food was about to be ready, when several policemen came up to me and asked if I was “the leader?”. I replied, “No, everyone here is the leader.” They didn’t like my anarchist inclination, I guess. (In the S D Union the next day, headlined “Collier Park Melee,” it reported that when the cops first attempted to talk to the leaders, they were met “with indifference.” So I called myself “indifference” for awhile after that.) When the skit was over at the beach, I had turned the Marine uniform shirt I was wearing inside out, because I wanted to prevent the cops from using it as a pretext to arrest me for impersonating a military person. But I was easily identifiable, along with the Viet Cong flag and pole. As the police came down clearing the park, I ended up at the top of the hill, near the apartments under construction. I started moving east on Banning St., which in those days connected with Whittier. Suddenly, I hard a shout, and a couple of cops began running in my direction. I took off down Banning and Whittier, running like hell, when a van came down the hill, and the guys threw the door open and yelled “Jump in”, which I did, diving head first. Then the driver took off, with the cops only being about 50-75 feet behind me. I eventually got over to Seaside, where my friend, Hugh, lived. He had been arrested, standing in his front yard, watching the police clearing the streets. The charge, “failure to disperse.” It was a plainclothes car and cops that snatched him, and as they drove away, the one in the backseat with him began gouging one of his eyes with his fingers, stating basically, “wouldn’t it be a shame if one of the protesters lost an eye, too.” (During the riot, one policeman lost an eye, due to a thrown rock or bottle.) Hugh later was found not guilty of the charges. (My father had come to the beach rally, and taken pictures. One of the pictures was later used in the trial to prove the cop was lying on the witness stand, hence the judge threw the case out.) OB went on a total dusk to dawn curfew that night, and anyone walking the streets could be picked up. Like Doug mentions, during the next week, when we were planning for the following Saturday “Build the Park” action, the cops raided the Saratoga Ave. house. But it didn’t stop us. I’ve spent the last 40 years in California’s other “Hippie Enclave”, Arcata, heavily involved with public radio. I last talked with Peter Bohmer, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, in 1990, when I did an extensive radio interview with him following the Judi Bari/Darryl Cherney bombing during Redwood Summer, comparing the Earth First!/FBI situation and relating them to the FBI/Secret Army Organization/Minuteman actions in San Diego during the late 1960s/early 1970s. I can’t be there this weekend, but I’ll be there in spirit.


Frank Gormlie March 26, 2011 at 11:11 am

Tom, so awesome, dude! Never heard your story from that day before. I will read it out loud during our picnic, unless you want to send a different “solidarity statement” that I’ve asked other former OBceans to make. Bohmer already sent his in. Cannot believe your VC flag was the one used at Tom Sawyer’s Island – no way man!!!! That’s an entire story in itself, and I recall being in the Rag “office” – actually a backyard shack – laying up that Rag when we heard the news about Disneyland and the invasion of the yippies, Cannot believe it – prove it, I say. How about an article – “The Day the Yippiers/ Hippies Invaded Disneyland” – one of the highpoints of my hippie freak career.

Where is Hugh these days?


Steve Smith June 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

I hope my comment isn’t too academic. But having been very active in the movement against the Vietnam War, I’m trying to develop a better understanding of it. I’m especially interested in the People’s Peace Treaty and the extent to which it was effectively circulated and the kind of support and controversies it generated at various places around the country. So I’d really like to talk with Tom Cairns, Frank Gormlie, and anyone else who was involved with the Treaty in OB and would be very grateful if you’d send me an email with info about how I might contact you. Many thanks—Steve


Frank Gormlie June 7, 2011 at 9:32 am

Steve – contact me at our blog’s email address: obragblog@gmail.com


Tom Cairns March 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Hugh lives on Maui. Go ahead and read my story. Re Disneyland, I’ll work on one, and I’ll try to find the Berkeley Tribe photo of me raising the flag at Ft. Wilderness on that day of Yippiedom.


Dickie March 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Wow, great article, Frank, and thank you all for the great comments

I heard of OB for the first time soon before Collier Park. One of my roommates at the time back in Cambridge Mass, George Katsiaficas, went visiting a good friend, Peter Bohmer, who had ended up teaching at San Diego State and living in this “youth community,” Ocean Beach, where all kinds of cool things were happening. The Collier Park Riot happened during this visit When George returned he told us about this incredible event he had witnessed.
We were involved in radical “community development” work ourselves in Cambridge (food co-ops, communes, alternative publications) and also very involved in anti-war work, so the situation really resonated . . . but the community’s, that is OB’s, readiness to struggle compared to our scene in Cambridge is what really caught our attention. At the time I was a pretty burned out “old” (almost thirty) activist having been an organizer for years and then was unable to pursue a career as a community college teacher in Cleveland, Ohio because of political blacklist. The militant embodiment in OB at Collier Park of what was to me a new concept, think globally, act locally, inspired me anew, and really led me to OB.
I visited for the first time in Sept. 1971 for 4 days to see for myself. I then came back to OB for a three-week visit in late 1972 but ended up staying seven years, working on the orig OBRag, and several other community projects, most proudly the OB ChildCareProject. Even after moving to the Bay Area, I kept visiting every year, two, three, four times . . . every summer during the 80s with my daughter who grew up a kind of partial OBCean and still counts many of her “family” among OBecians.
I’m sorry to miss a great Collier Park event for the second time. I hope a lot of people have a great time all over again . . . this time maybe the cops will be a lot kinder, even join in . . . And everyone who appreciates, as I do to this day, the very special qualities of OB in all its tumultuous variety, might well celebrate the struggle at and for Collier Park as part of the history that made us and that we continue to make . . .


OB DUDE March 26, 2011 at 7:29 pm

THE PARK “donated to “the children of San Diego” by D.C. Collier – an early altruistic developer”

FYI, NO children’s playground equipment exists at this park. I wonder if our councilman thinks playground equipment is important for our children ??

When the parcel was sold to build the apartments a trust account should have been established to maintain this park and it’s equipment. It is slowly deteriorating and going to the dogs!


tlrelf March 26, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Thank you for such an in-depth piece. No doubt one of my friends’ older siblings was at this event. . .or their parents. . .

As to the park being “for the children”, it would be great if funds had been set aside. . .So, perhaps the piece will generate some funds for this–or “we” could have something set up?


Katy March 27, 2011 at 8:19 am

Everyone marched past my house, on Voltaire Street. My mother wouldn’t let me go with the crowd, so I gave water and cookies to people passing by. I was 11 years old.
I helped clean up the park, the weekend after the riot, and planted sunflowers, pumpkins, and zucchini.
I was much more involved in the jetty battle, the summer before.


Allen Lewis March 28, 2011 at 10:58 am

Hi Sarah, yes you got it, I live in Anacorte, great little town funny how things work, if you wan’t to see my wed site it’s fidalgoswing.com.I have lived in Anacortes for 15 years moved from Maui 96. I am a almost secoud generation from OB. Born in 1950 , schools I attended Ocean View Elementary, Ocean Beach Elementary, Collier Jr High, Dana Jr. High and dropped out of Point Loma High in 1966. If you want some real history about OB, I lived it. My band back then (Horizon) was playing at Webbs in 1973. Allen


Allen Lewis March 28, 2011 at 11:03 am

P.S. shouldn’t have dropped out of high school, never did learn to spell “lol” it’s Anacortes Wa.


John Blanco August 3, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Wow — I didn’t know anything about this history. It’s so inspiring, to see that generations before us in SD were fighting against US wars in Asia (and the Middle east), against privatization of the commons, and expressing our right to free assembly in the most radical way. When I first came to San Diego I was culture shocked — I couldn’t understand how people were so progressive when it came to individual lifestyle but so backwards politically. Over the years, I’ve come to see that that isn’t always the case. But why do we have to look so hard to connect the dots? that’s what I still find so hard to understand.


Wireless Mike March 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm

The park that exists today is only a small remnant of the original 60 acre park established by David “Charlie” Collier in 1909. The original park extended across Nimitz Blvd and included the sites of Correia Middle School, the YMCA, the Little League field and old soapbox derby track, as well as the Native Plant Garden and the Greencliff Apartments. It is bounded by Greene and Banning Streets, Soto Street, Valeta Street and (roughly) Famosa Blvd.

Collier, who lived at the foot of Coronado Ave, was also instrumental in getting the streets of OB paved and in building OB Elementary School. Collier was in charge of the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, and he was a trustee of Wonderland in OB. This guy was a very important and influential OBcian in the early part of the last century.


mr.rick March 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm

As the summer of the jetty was winding down I went to Portland Oregon to protest at the American Legion convention. Did not get back to OB until the summer, so I missed the Collier Park Mele. ( the Union had a habit of describing “Riots” as “mele’s”). But my main thought is how much more fun we could have had, had we known about “High Pressure Sodium” lamps at that time. Tried the back yard several times over the years but had slim luck due to the rip offs and heat. I’m thinking that stopping the “Jetty” was the thing that made Collier Park possible. If they could have beatan us down and finished the “Jetty” it would have been a lot harder to save Collier park. We were comming off of a significant victory and we were feeling pretty “froggy” at the time. So, when the “cops” jumped us (no, I wasn,t there) we were primed to jump. And jump we did!


Hugh E Brenner November 6, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Aloha-Ran across this article just today, including the erudite and informative commentary from Tom “Carrots” Cairns, only one small correction to make. I was actually arrested for felony assault on a police officer, mostly because of the Viet Cong flagshirt I had tie-dyed and was wearing, and a lot more shit went on in that police car backseat, but I survived. And I was convicted of “Failure to Disperse”, due to the intelligence and perception of Judge Hugo Fischer and my awesome Public Defender. Really enjoyed the article, Collier Park is always one of our first stops when we visit back in OB. Yow, the 50th anniversary passed earlier this year. Anyway, totally enjoyed your spot-on analysis. Hope this much belated correspondence reaches you.
Keep up the good fight, Frank.


Frank Gormlie November 6, 2021 at 3:55 pm

Hugh! Great to hear from you. Yeah 50 years – and Collier Park is still there. I hear the sand at Maui is disappearing.


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