Mar 13, 2017

January 14, 1967: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

THE BEGINNING IS THE HUMAN BE-IN

Would you believe Timothy Leary and Mario Savio? Allen Ginsberg and Jack Weinberg? Lao-tzu and Spartacus?
It's happening.
Berkeley political activists are going to join San Francisco's hippies in a love feast that will, hopefully, wipe out the last remnants of mutual skepticism and suspicion.
The thing is called A Gathering of the Tribes, a Pow Wow and Peace Dance, a Human Be-In. It will happen at the Polo Grounds in SF on Saturday the 14th.
The two radical scenes are for the first time beginning to look at each other more closely. What both see is that both are under a big impersonal stick called The Establishment. So they're going to stand up together in what both hope to be a new and strong harmony.
The Golden Gate Park Grounds will hold fifty thousand people, and an endless number of sounds, scents, and sights. Beads, bells, flutes, incense, flags, symbols, cymbals, drums, feathers, flowers.
And words. Words kept short. Words painting a picture of a free, loving society to come.
In homes on both sides of the Bay, while this was being shaped from a dream to a reality, the basic problem was whether to play the word game.
The San Franciscans didn't want to play that game any more; it doesn't work, they said, and the non-verbal modes of expression tell it where it's at.
The Berkleyans wanted to play that game because that's where the rest of society plays; that's the only way, they said, to get through to most people.
The hip wondered aloud whether the politicos would make the Gathering a haranguing rally. The politicos wondered aloud whether the hip would all happily turn on and any social message would be lost.
They solved it.
The Human Be-In is the message. It will say, "We're here, together, free, alive, creative, and this is the way the whole world will be when it's ours."
Music sounds will come from the Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and others.
Word sounds will come from Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Jerry Rubin, Richard Alpert, Stu Albert, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Mario Savio, Timothy Leary, Jack Weinberg, and others. Mostly in person-to-person talk, not from platforms.
As a spokesman for the San Franciscans says it, "A new concert of human relations being developed within the youthful underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared so that a Revolution of form can be filled with a Renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love in the Revelation of the unity of all mankind."
The beginning is the Human Be-In.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 6 January 1967) 

* * * 

HIPPIES, ACTIVISTS JOIN (?) FOR BE-IN

The Haight-Ashbury hippies and the Berkeley political activists will join forces, at least temporarily, at a "happening" on the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park on Saturday afternoon.
A hippie press conference, with incense, marigolds, fruit and tea (liquid), was held on Haight Street today to announce the affair.
Not unexpectedly, the two groups have different expectations. Said Allen Cohen, the poet and bookseller:
"When the Berkeley political activists and the love generation of the Haight-Ashbury...embrace at the Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In at the Polo Field...the spiritual revolution will be manifest and proven."
Said Jerry Rubin, the Berkeley activist:
"The political radicals and the hippies are turned off by the same things in this country. We are alienated from a society which tells us that patriotism means the bombing of peasants in Vietnam."
He said the theme of the new community, the new generation, may be summed up as "tune in, drop out, take over."
But Gary Snyder, the poet, hastily amended this call:
"The term 'take over' is not to be construed in any ideological or political sense," he said. "Our hope is that man's capacity for love will take over."
Rubin made some concession to the hippie emphasis on love and acceptance, however. He said:
"We affirm that there can be a world in which human beings treat human beings with love and understanding.
"We are idealistic. The  'human be-in' on Saturday will be a time for all to rejoice in their common humanness and brotherhood."
The Be-In will begin at 1 p.m. First, said Snyder, magical Sanskrit and Tibetan incantations will be chanted "to pacify the mind and reinforce the spirit."
Then he, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Lenore Kandel, and other Bay Area poets will read from their works.
After that there will be an "open mike" - meaning anybody is free to come up and sound off. Finally, before dusk, several rock 'n' roll bands will turn on and "everybody will interact."

(from the San Francisco Examiner, 12 January 1967)

* * * 

A BRAVE NEW WHIRL IN THE PARK  (excerpt)

Tomorrow beginning at 1 p.m. on the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park, there will be a "Gathering of the Tribes," for a Human Be-In. It marks the first conscious get-together of all the elements in the Brave New World.
Berkeley politicos who have been notorious for their squareness will join the Hashberry hippies uninterested in politics to make an affirmation for life.
There will be speakers such as Tim Leary, Dick Alpert, Mario Savio, Jerry Rubin, poets such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lenore Kandel, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder, comics and social critics such as Dick Gregory (if he can get here) and Robert Baker, and a host of rock bands, including just about all the good ones on the scene such as the Grateful Dead, the Loading Zone, the Jefferson Airplane, Sir Douglas Quintet, and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
It ought to be a magnificent and inspiring afternoon. The non-organizers (an anti-organization stance is characteristic of the movement) invited the public to bring "costumes, blankets, bells, flags, symbols, drums, beads, feathers, and flowers."
If you want to know what is really happening, you will not miss this. And if you want a glimpse of the future as it will be (poetically if not practically), dig it.

(by Ralph Gleason, from the San Francisco Chronicle, 13 January 1967)

* * * 

CITY'S 'GROOVERS' GATHER FOR 'GIG'

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) - Anybody who was nobody was there.
And if there were any anybodys, nobody knew.
It was the city's biggest social event of the season but it failed to make the society pages.
It was a happening.
It took place at the polo field in Golden Gate Park. They were all there - the hippy denizens of the Haight-Asbury District and outlying regions, the activists from Berkeley, the Hells Angels, students, beatniks, toddlers. Thirteen thousand of them under a sunny sky.
And about 2,000 spectators, some of them bemused, some completely dumbfounded. The police also sent a delegation, mainly to ticket dozens of illegally parked cars.
Word of the event began circulating earlier this month in the Haight-Asbury, home for many of the city's far-out types. It was billed as a "human Be-In" and a "Gathering of the Tribes," a get-together for political activists and hippies. The public was also invited and asked to bring "costumes, blankets, bells, flags, symbols, drums, beads, feathers, and flowers."
Timothy Leary, high priest of the psychedelic cult, delivered a sermon. Bedecked with beads around his neck and flowers in his hair, he declared:
"Turn onto the scene; tune into what is happening; and drop out - of high school, college, grade school, junior executive, senior executive - and follow me, the hard way."
Jazz virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie blew his trumpet [to] the accompaniment of flutes and tambourines.
More music was provided by the Jefferson Airplane, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Grateful Dead. Members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang guarded the generators which powered the public address system.
An unidentified guest with a white helmet arrived by parachute.
Poet Allen Ginsberg chanted a zen Buddhist hymn in Sanskrit as everybody faced the sun setting over the Pacific.
Anti-war activist Jerry Rubin, just out of a Berkeley jail, derided the establishment and passed the hat for money for his defense in court.
A gaunt young man with flowing hair wore a red gunnysack. Another was clad in the costume of a court jester. Togas and priest-like vestments were also in evidence.

(from the Argus, Fremont CA, 16 January 1967)

* * *

HIPPIES ATTEND 'HUMAN BE-IN' 

SAN FRANCISCO - The first "Human Be-In" was held here recently in Golden Gate Park.
And 10,000 of the faithful gathered to participate in the rites.
Who are the faithful? The hippies of the Haight-Ashbury district which has now become the hippie capital of the world.
It is the Mecca of the movement. Hippie pilgrims from afar journey hither to make the scene.
The major prophets of the new faith were all there at the Human Be-In. Poet Allen Ginsburg, who came up through the ranks in the quaint old beatnik days, was there to lead the mob in a Hare Krishna swami chant.
If you don't know what that is, you are unspeakably square.
Pig-Pen, the organ grinder for the Grateful Dead whose gaudy sweatshirts are a must for teen-age girls, gave the invocation with rock music.
And ex-Prof. Timothy Leary, high priest of the LSD cult, delivered an impassioned plea to "turn on, tune in and drop out" while everybody who could twirled around a maypole to the delirious beat of the Quicksilver Messenger Service.
It was the Happening of Happenings.
To the tune of "We Shall Overcome," the crowd belted out its national anthem, "We Are All Insane."
This is about the only thing that makes perfect sense to people not meshed in the hippie movement.
Some of the hippies are probably insane and others are suffering from serious mental disturbances. But probably most of them are kids who are getting a tremendous kick out of doing absolutely everything that is abhorrent and annoying to their parents.
Wait ten years and you will find most of the current hippies are "turned off, tuned out and dropped back in."

(by Ellis Spackman, from the San Bernardino County Sun, 16 February 1967)

* * *

THEY CAME...SAW...STARED

A bizarre union of love and activism was celebrated on the Polo Field at Golden Gate Park yesterday, marking the first annual Feast of the Incongruous.
While thousands strolled under the gum trees and soaked up sun in a carnival atmosphere, other thousands watched them.
Police at the Richmond Station estimated the crowd as about 10,000.
It was billed as a "happening," a gathering of the tribes for a "be-in."
It was said to involve the far out Berkeley political activists and the farther out love hippies of the San Francisco Haight-Ashbury District.
Mostly, it was a staring match - eyeball to eyeball.
All the high priests of both movements turned out in their costumes to be stared at.
Many of those staring were dogs, all kinds of dogs who had wandered in from the Sunset and Richmond districts with their masters and mistresses.
There were many kiddies, too, several of whom got lost and cried.
While the liturgical joys of the be-in were being celebrated, a squad of policemen went from car to car hanging tickets on windshields of autos parked illegally on the grass.
It was very festive.
Amid the cacophonic scene that seemed to be a living fever dream, there was a regularly scheduled rugby game between the Olympic Club and Oregon State University.
Out of the sky - a clear blue sky - appeared a parachutist in white helmet and white shield who dropped right smack in the middle of the rugby field, as if by design.
A retiring sort, the chutist walked away without giving his name or his airplane.
Dr. Timothy Leary, the apostle of LSD, was decked out in white for the occasion. He carried a daffodil and had a lei of flowers and beads around his neck.
Leary made a speech in which he advised his listeners to "turn on, tune in, and drop out." He explained:
"Turn onto the scene; tune into what is happening; and drop out - of high school, college, grad school, junior executive, senior executive - and follow me, the hard way."
Others wore tiaras of flowers, carried burning punk or incense. Many wore sequins; one had silver lame stockings; another had a red burlap robe and carried a piece of pampas grass.
No nudes were noticed.
At one point someone cut the power cable, which stilled the Quicksilver Messenger Service and grounded the Jefferson Airplane.
Alan Ginsberg, the poet; Lenore Kandel, who wrote a little book on love; and Jerry Rubin, a speaker, were there too.
Rubin had just been bailed out of Berkeley's jail and the hat was passed for his defense.
Robert Baker presented a parody of "The Night Before Christmas" in which Santa Claus arrives bearing marijuana cigarets and LSD caps.
Then, the poets Ginsberg and Gary Snyder led the assemblage in a Sanskrit evocation of a Buddhist chant.
The Olympics won the rugby match, 23-3.
The only thing lacking on the Polo Field was a polo game.
But no one had thought to get a permit for that.

(from the San Francisco Examiner, 15 January 1967)

* * *

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE HIPPENING

It was a beautiful day, and as we crossed the bridge we picked out the cars that were going to the be-in. It's very odd to look around and see so many beards and so much long hair riding around you in cars. A Negro from Montana must have much the same feelings when he goes to Harlem.
There were a few straights but they looked very uptight and out of place, and their cars seemed to be straining to get back to familiar companions, rearing in shock at the '49 Fords and overloaded VW buses.
We parked in the Haight-Ashbury, not knowing how far the Polo Grounds were, and began to walk. The hippy stores were closed as though it were a religious holiday, and in the crowds in the street a direction could be felt as though a slow current were beginning to flow towards the park. Apparitions stood on the corners, the genius of the place was in full possession this day, the Merchants Association notwithstanding.
In the park we just followed the flow, drifting down walks and around corners with a crowd of hippies that got thicker and thicker. [ . . . ] It sure is a long way to the polo grounds from the Haight-Ashbury, nobody knows for sure where it is, everyone is just flowing along and after a while I was convinced that we would never get there, not that it mattered since the park was such a gas. Then we went over to an embankment and walked up a wide green valley and there we were.
It looked like Newport - a large crowd outside around an improvised bandstand. Such a lot of people. I was glad.
The sound system had just been restored and a voice came over it saying that the Hell's Angels were now guarding it. Applause from the crowd, and near the generator Freewheelin Frank stood atop something and waved his tambourine over the crowd. It looked fine. People were moving thru the crowd with brightly colored banners, talking excitedly to their friends, the Quicksilver Messenger Service was playing and the sound came thru the speakers intermittently, and the whole day felt like a carnival. Most of the crowd was sitting in a wide semi-circle around the speakers platform which was decorated with pine and banners, and everyone was waiting.
This was the third large meeting of the tribes, if you will, that I had been to. Each had a different cast to it, but all of them felt alike really, the International Days of Protest, the Peace March, and now the Be-In. Control of events had moved from politicos to the straight hippies, but the composition of the crowds was nearly the same. While we waited I wondered if the hippies could do any better than the politicos at having a meeting.
It took nothing to assemble the people. A few posters and some talk. Everyone wanted to be assembled. Everyone wanted something to take place, and clearly the assemblers of the tribes had felt this also; it was the reason for the assembly. For all of that, the politicos proved to have been better at it than the hippies. Nothing happened at the Be-In, and the opportunity to gather all of those people was wasted.
A gushing announcement preceded Leary, "one of our brothers who has come to give us something of himself," which embarrassed me and I imagine how it must have sounded to someone who was still pretty connected to society.
He spoke briefly and to no purpose. His text was Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out, but the only part of that he seemed to be forthright about was Drop Out. Turn on evidently is not a phrase meaning take drugs. Sure fooled me, here for years I thought that's what it meant. Instead it means, Become Alert and Aware of what is taking place, or Wake Up, Shake It, and Split. Applause was light.
Lenore Kandel read. The sex poems sounded futile and empty and the sound system cut out a lot a lot of times, but one poem seemed to have some life in it. I began going through the crowd to see how they felt, and they were waiting and impatient, ready for the next speaker. It was Jerry Rubin who tailed into incoherence about jails, I couldn't catch the rest because the people around me were making sarcastic remarks - there is not as great a political tradition in the park as on the campus perhaps, maybe he just sounded incoherent to them also. They were waiting.
When the Dead came and played most of the crowd stood up to dance, but the dancing seemed lifeless and just looked weird in the daylight. Shortly afterwards we left, walking down that long, wide green valley digging the plants and colors. A young Negro walked up and said, "Hey man, why did they do it?" and I said, "They thought it would be a good idea if everyone got together," and he looked puzzled and walked off.
It is very uncomfortable to go and hear the elders and realize that they have very little to say to you as a group. Our generation has not yet learned how to organize on a scale that has 10,000 people anywhere doing anything. Irresponsible.
It was difficult to get in touch with anyone before the event, no one really knew what was going on, obviously no one had thought much about the tone of the event, or else they are simply too out of it to know what those remarks by the m.c. sounded like in sunlight. The crowd was seated uncomfortably close with little chance for motion - a walk to another section of the park would have been really fine, but the worst thing of all was the emptyness of the speakers, the lack of anything going on.
The politicos at former pow-wows presented a broad spectrum of interesting, intelligent speakers who were really into their thing and had a lot to say [ . . . ] - it was an event of national importance and it began a whole series of events, even though in the end they were unable to handle things. The hippies presented an in-group scene for believers with a mostly local cast doing things that hadn't been thought out in a way that showed they weren't ready for that step, and what events will follow?

(by ED Denson, from the Berkeley Barb, 20 January 1967)


Thanks to Dave Davis.

https://archive.org/details/gd67-01-14.sbd.vernon.9108.sbeok.shnf  (tracks 2-3)

Some videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lvH6gZH3j8 - color
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTGyFgyB5Q8 - b&w

See also:
https://www.sfchronicle.com/music/article/Reliving-the-Human-Be-In-50-years-later-10854785.php
https://allenginsberg.org/2011/07/human-be-in-in-san-francisco-1967-asv-8/
http://www.outsidelands.org/be-in.php
 

6 comments:

  1. A couple brief contemporary press reactions to the Human Be-In. Little mention of the Dead, but of interest for other reasons. (In the future I may add more detailed articles to this if I find any good ones.)

    The first article is a straightforward news report, the second is editorial commentary.
    Note that this is not considered an important event, nor of much cultural significance. Hippies are regarded as ridiculous nuts living in make-believe. (The second article is more overtly hostile; the first article is more descriptive, but you can tell the reporter finds these weirdly-dressed anti-establishment "far-out types" bizarre.)

    Of Dead interest, it's noted that Pigpen's "gaudy sweatshirts are a must for teen-age girls." In the '60s, Pigpen was the public face of the Dead, though I suspect Pigpen shirts weren't quite that popular! (The Dead fan club had only just started putting out Pigpen t-shirts in fall '66.)

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  2. I added a couple articles from the SF Examiner: the announcement of the Be-In, and a report of the event.
    Needless to say, these are mainstream reports, and articles from the underground press would have a very different view of the Be-In. Regular newspapers covered such events very inadequately.
    The Examiner at least notices there's a difference between the Haight-Ashbury hippies and the Berkeley radicals, but otherwise is quite remote from the strange goings-on. No one is quoted at all except for a bit from Leary's speech. The costumes and poets get more attention than the music. The event is called "bizarre" and "festive," a cacophonous "living fever dream." The main point is for "the high priests of both movements [to turn] out in their costumes to be stared at."

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    1. The Examiner's view of the event can also be seen in a related front-page story on 1/15/67:

      "HIPPIES RUN WILD -- JAILED
      Hippies carried their "be-in" back to Haight-Ashbury last night and turned it into a "breakout" - stopping traffic on Haight Street and pushing citizens off the sidewalks, according to police.
      Result: 25 hippies locked up in the Park Station jail and charged with creating a nuisance.
      Police said the commotion began about 9 p.m., after the hippies returned from a giant "happening" at Golden Gate Park that lasted until dusk.
      High on LSD, according to police, the hippies gathered [on Haight St.] and obstructed three buses and cars, then pushed people off the walks.
      A police car pulled up, ordered the hippies to disperse or face arrest...[which] triggered a round of bottle-throwing at the police car.
      Other policemen were called in...about 40 hippies who still refused to disperse were loaded into four paddy wagons. Hippies described the police action as harassment and called the arrests "token."
      In a nonrelated incident, a young man walked through a plate glass window in a store at 416 Frederick St. Police said the man was naked and apparently under the influence of LSD."

      So much for "the spiritual revolution!"

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  3. The 1/22/67 Examiner ran an interview with Alan Ginsberg ("'They're Young Seekers, Not Hippies,' Says Poet Ginsberg") which had a more sympathetic view of the Be-In, from his perspective:

    "The formal, ceremonial structure of the gathering at the Polo Field on January 14 was lost in most of the published and broadcast accounts," he said...
    "The call for flowers, fruit, incense, cymbals, tambourines was part of the atmosphere of ritual we wanted. We began by chanting a special mantra, or incantation, for removing disasters. There was a purificatory circumambulation of the Polo Field, to drive away demons and bad influences."
    Ginsberg noted that during the afternoon [a master] from the Bush Street Zen Buddhist-Temple sat in meditation on the platform, even while the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead, and the Jefferson Airplane rent the air with rock 'n roll music.
    At the end of the afternoon, he recalled, the thousands of seekers, Berkeley activists, and members of the general public faced the setting sun while a closing mantra was chanted. Ginsberg then blew a conch shell horn..."

    The Hell's Angels' presence was also noted:
    "One of the eye-opening scenes at the Be-In was the arrival, welcoming and taming...temporarily, it turned out...of a group of Hell's Angels, the black-jacketed, iron-crossed motorcyclists with a ferocious reputation for belligerence.
    The Angels looked sinister enough when they wheeled their cycles, motors sputtering noisily, around the rim of the Polo Field, their birds perched on the back with cigarets in their mouths.
    But some young women from the Haight-Ashbury, long-legged beauties wearing beads, flowers, and bright colors, approached the Angels, gave them incense sticks and flowers to carry.
    Presently spectators were mildly astonished to see Angels holding lost children on their laps, shaking tambourines to accompany the chanting of mantras, guarding the power line to the amplification system which had been "accidentally" cut early in the afternoon.
    This honeymoon between Love and Force was too good to last and it didn't. Before the day was over the Angels, offended by some chance remark, fell to with their fists and booted feet in the accustomed Angel solution to disagreement.
    Despite this, Ginsberg thinks they are changing under the beatific influence of love, poetry, and psychedelism..."

    Ginsberg also wanted to point out "the powerful effects of holiness and meditation" on the public:
    "We appealed to the people to clean up all the litter on the Polo Field... Next day some of the Haight Street sponsors went back to make sure the field was clean. Later, park officials told us that so large a crowd had not left so little litter in a generation."

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    1. I might add, the Ginsberg article was illustrated not by a picture of chanting meditators or peaceful hippies, but a photo of Hell's Angels beating up someone in a "skirmish."

      Another notable incident during the Be-In:
      "A parachutist floated down during the Dead's set. We all watched in ecstatic awe, somehow expecting miracles to happen when he landed. But he made a beautiful landing, folded up his chute & walked away, & no one even learned his name..."
      (from a Communication Company report, printed in Sarah Hill, San Francisco and the Long 60s, p.119)

      The Examiner's sports section expanded on this:
      "Golden Gate Park's polo field has no fences to restrict invaders, so Northern California Rugby Union teams are used to kids, cyclists, preoccupied strollers, and the inevitable dogs on the field.
      But referee Bryan Porter and members of four teams couldn't believe their eyes yesterday when a parachutist sailed through the air and landed between the pitches on which two games were in progress.
      Quicker than you can say "Dr. Timothy Leary," the 10,000 or so Haight-Ashbury District denizens, the far-out Berkeley political activists, and the guests from Sausalito who were holding a gathering at the other end of the huge field overran both rugby games to converge on the parachute jumper.
      "I played rugby in New Zealand for 20 years and here for the Olympic Club another 10," said referee Porter. "But I've never seen anything like this.
      "It took us 15 minutes to get the people off the fields. And until the games were over we had to keep chasing stragglers.
      "Most people apparently don't realize the danger of being struck by a rugby player traveling at full speed. They'd get hurt - bad."
      No one could furnish the identity of the parachute jumper - even the police."
      ("Suddenly, Out of A Clear, Blue Sky..." 1/15/67 Examiner)

      The rumor immediately went around that it was Owsley himself, descending on the field to give acid to all, but this was unfounded.

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  4. I added a skeptical report from the Berkeley Barb. Denson sounds very disenchanted with the event - it seems he'd hoped it could be used for a political purpose: "Nothing happened at the Be-In, and the opportunity to gather all of those people was wasted."
    While lamenting the lack of hippie organization or foresight, he grumbles about how lame the affair was - the speakers were embarrassing or incoherent, the crowd was impatient, nothing was going on, and even when the Dead appeared, "the dancing seemed lifeless and just looked weird in the daylight." In short, it was all empty and pointless!
    So even for a non-straight, the Be-In looked a lot less rosy at the time than it was portrayed in later years. He mentions that the day "felt like a carnival" or a religious holiday, but doesn't draw anything from that. Maybe every day was a carnival over in Berkeley.

    I thought it was a funny scene, though, with the crowd wandering to the polo grounds, people just following the flow since "nobody knows for sure where it is." Which makes me think of San Francisco newcomers, wandering helplessly around the park trying to find where the bands were playing...
    By the way, for the organizers of the event, the bands may have been an afterthought. It seems that in planning and advertising, emphasis was placed on the various speakers, with the unnamed "rock bands" last on the lineup.

    The 1/20/67 Barb also ran an article describing the mass arrests on Haight St. after the Be-In, protesting the "police fury," "unnecessary brutality," and indiscriminate arrests of bystanders. "What started it? The kids were having a ball, they were enjoying themselves... They were playing music on the sidewalk."

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