When Ofays Riot

“I am urging the parents of white youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing LL Bean.”

Seaside is a small town on the northern Oregon Coast, an hour-and-a-half drive from Portland. It has long been a popular destination for vacationing families and spring-break revelers. It’s home to skee-ball, bumper cars and Lewis and Clark’s salt works.

A fight broke out among several young males in Seaside during the Labor Day weekend in 1962. When police moved in to break it up, hundreds of young white people went on a rampage, bombarding police with rocks and beer bottles, full and empty. (Yes, alcohol was involved.)

Firefighters trained hoses on the rioters; the rioters took knives to the hoses. The hoses they didn’t slash, they turned on the firefighters. Storefront windows on Broadway were smashed, cars were vandalized. The thirty-foot-high lifeguard tower was pulled from the beach. Police reinforcements came from Astoria and Portland. Sixty people were arrested.

The rioters were so energized they came back and did it again the following Labor Day and then again in 1964. In 1965 hundreds of state police and national guardsmen were ready and all was quiet that year.

A twenty-five-year anniversary melee occurred during spring break in 1999, but it was short-lived. The rioters didn’t seem to have their hearts in it, just a few smashed store windows and some vandalism.

Fast-forward a few decades: the Keene Pumpkin Festival. The small New Hampshire town hosts its annual harvest festival. The centerpiece is a display of thousands of carved pumpkins in Keene’s downtown. Keene set the Guiness record for lit jack o’ lanterns with 30,581 in 2013.

In 2014, drunken students from Keene State College joined the festivities and turned it into a riot. (Yes, alcohol was involved.) As one intrepid participant put it: “It’s just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops. It’s fucking wicked.”

There was no social media in the 1960s. The Keene riots, two months after the killing of Michael Brown and resultant upheavals in Ferguson Missouri, unleashed barrages of ridicule on Twitter.

  • White people in New Hampshire really need to do some self-reflection and regulate their animal impulses in the wake of #keenepumpkinfest.
  • If white people continue to glorify pumpkin violence in their culture they deserve the spice-latte thug stereotypes.
  • White students vandalizing. Where are the leaders who will speak about this culture of violence?
  • Don’t these people have jobs? Where are the white fathers? What will end this corrosive culture of violence?!

And so on…

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