Burning of the Bank of America


Police in riot gear. (Photo taken by Joe Melchione)

On the night of February 25, 1970, students’ frustrations reached their peak. This caused them to take out their frustrations by burning down the Bank of America building. To the students this building represented everything that they hated capitalism, the Vietnam War, and businesses. During this time period the students did not agree with many injustices that were going on. One of the main causes for the students’ frustrations was that the minimum voting age was 21 and had no say when it came to the elections, yet they were being drafted for the Vietnam War. This night will always be remembered by the Isla Vista community.



Police car set on fire by rioters (Photo taken by Melchione)

This event will always be remembered in three different perspectives, the students’ perspective, the authorities perspective, and the community as a whole. The students will remember this event as a time when the community got together to fight for what they believed was right; a time when they finally stood up for what they believed in and did whatever it took to have their voices heard. The authorities will remember this event as an event that they want to avoid at all costs. They remember this as the event that  began a series of three major riots. If the students would not have been motivated by William Kuntsler’s speech a few hours before the riots began, then the series of riots would not have occurred. Authorities do not want to relive this event because the students got together to fight the power and caught the media’s attention for a few months. Isla Vista was not well known with the media before.During the 2015 Baltimore riots, an article came out comparing the two riots and mentioning the lesson there is to be learned by these two events.



Students gather to have their voices heard. (Photo by Melchione)

As a whole, the community remembers this event as something both negative and positive. Negative because of all the damage and tragedies that occurred as a result of this event, but positive because of the good that came out of this event. Good things that occurred because of the riots were that the community was brought together and efforts to gain city-hood to Isla Vista brought students and community leaders together, making it easier for students to express their concerns with people who could do something about it. This event will always be a part of Isla Vista’s collective memory because if it wasn’t for this event, the community would not have become as united as it is now.

The three perspectives are externalized through Joe Melchione’s website dedicated to the 1970’s Isla Vista riots. This website contains over one hundred images documenting the riots as well as a summary of all of the key events. The images taken by Melchione help externalize the collective memory of the event. The first two images above show how this event is remembered in a negative perspective, while the third image shows how the event is perceived as something positive by uniting thousands of people.