Trying to Prevent Violence

The 40th anniversary of the IV conflict reminded me of an episode that has puzzled me ever since.

It concerns the attempt to burn the temporary Bank of America that was erected after the permanent bank was burned.

I was living in IV at the time. One late evening listening to music on FM, I heard the then Vice-Chancellor Stephen Goodspeed on the air, calling faculty to come to the temporary bank to protect it. I walked over. I was one of the Vietnam protesters, but I advocated non-violent protest.

There might have been 50 to 100 students around the front of the bank. Many had Molotov cocktails made with quart milk cartons filled with gasoline and a fuse. Some had lead pipes. Holding off the students were a group of police and faculty.

I joined the adult group, and was quickly surrounded by students. They vehemently insisted that the bank should be burned, and that I should get out of the way. I responded with reasons that the bank not be burned, and that they should go home.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, but could have been much longer, I looked around. To my surprise, all of the other adults, including Goodspeed and the police, had left. I was the only holdout. In my own group, it seemed to me that one of the students with a lead pipe was preparing to hit me.

At this moment, a student threw a cocktail at the side of the bank. It bounced off, however, and lit the weeds that we were standing in. Since they were dead, the fire spread rapidly to the whole field. At this point, luckily for me, everyone ran away.

My question: why did Goodspeed’s group, including the police, leave when the bank was still in danger? And why didn’t they tell me they were leaving?—Tom Scheff (professor emeritus, UCSB Dept. of Sociology)

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