Berkeley Beatniks

by kfrego

While stationed at MCAS El Toro in 1966 I had a couple assignments on riot duty for anti war demonstrations at the main gate. Surprising, a lot of effort was put into these demonstrations by the organizers from California State University at Berkeley near San Francisco. On our end, the USMC and other organizations were well prepared for any circumstances the demonstrators might confront us with.

The military had infiltrators on every bus load of demonstrators that rolled out of the bay area. They attended meetings, rally’s, and strategy sessions with the protest groups. It was a constant cat and mouse game to get the protestors to do something stupid at the demonstrations. The organizers out of Berkeley were well educated, very well versed in the laws, and knew the physical boundaries of the areas where they demonstrated. The property limits of the base at El Toro were a good example.

The Main gate at El Toro was physically located several hundred feet inside the actual government property boundary. The Marine Corps intentionally painted a wide line across the road about 100′ from the gate for the protests. Any protestor who approached this line would be well within the government property lines. Most people noting the line would consider it to be the border of the government property. If we could get the protestors inside the actual property lines they would be trespassing by law. If they were trespassing we could kick ass and take names. That’s exactly what we wanted to do. Our orders were to suck as many of them onto government property as we could. We would cut off their retreat to the buses, then teach them a little bit about Marine Corps protesting.

The bulk of the demonstrators were right out of the Haight Ashbury sub culture in San Francisco. Many of them probably didn’t even realize it was 1966. They were like a bus load of psychedelic hobos. They were just along for the ride. It was a good party trip and a break from hanging out on the city streets. These Beatniks were well handled by their mentors from Cal State Berkeley. When the buses parked for the demonstrations everybody knew where the real property line was. They never crossed it. They never gave us the chance to unload on them.

The Berkeley beatniks were a sorry bunch of people……………..but they weren’t idiots.

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