|Sunset Strip curfew riots|
|Part of the hippie movement|
West Hollywood, California, USA
The Sunset Strip curfew riots, also known as the "hippie riots", were a series of early counterculture-era clashes that took place between police and young people on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California in 1966.
By the mid 1960s, The Sunset Strip had become a place dominated by young members of the hippie and rock and roll counterculture. While this brought many artistic initiatives to the neighborhood, problems simultaneously arose in the form of alcohol and drug abuse and the disturbance of traffic.
In 1966, the city's administration implemented a handful of measures to curtail the growing nuisance. They targeted the Strip's most prominent rock club, the Whisky a Go Go, forcing its managers to change its name to the Whisk . Furthermore, annoyed residents and business owners in the district had encouraged the passage of strict (10 p.m.) curfew and loitering laws to reduce the traffic congestion resulting from crowds of young club patrons. This was perceived by young, local rock music fans as an infringement on their civil rights, and for weeks tensions and protests swelled. On Saturday, November 12, 1966, fliers were distributed along the Strip inviting people to demonstrate later that day. Hours before the protest one of L.A.'s rock 'n' roll radio stations announced there would be a rally at Pandora's Box, a club facing forced closure and demolition at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, and cautioned people to tread carefully. That evening, as many as 1,000 youthful demonstrators, including such celebrities as Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was handcuffed by police), erupted in protest against the perceived repressive enforcement of these recently invoked curfew laws.
The unrest continued the next night and off and on throughout November and December. Meanwhile, the local administration had decided to get tough, and rescinded the "youth permits" of twelve of the Strip's clubs, thereby making them off-limits to anybody under 21. In November 1966, the Los Angeles City Council voted to acquire and demolish the Pandora's Box. The club was eventually demolished in early August 1967.
According to Timeline's Matt Reimann, the riots anticipated a cultural rift that only grew in the coming years. In this light, Bob Gibson, manager of the Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas reflected: "If you had to put your finger on an event that was a barometer of the tide turning, it would probably be the Sunset Strip riots."
Regarding the importance of the Sunset Strip riots, The Guardian journalist Woody Haut argues that "it was, if nothing else, an early salvo in the "culture wars", a battle which continues to this day (...)." He furthermore argues that the riot's most lasting effect had to do with the music that came out of the event.
The incident provided the basis for the 1967 low-budget teen exploitation film Riot on Sunset Strip, and inspired multiple songs: