Seattle's University District begins self-pacification in the wake of riots on August 15, 1969.

  • By Alan J. Stein and Walt Crowley
  • Posted 6/06/1999
  • Essay 1266

On August 15, 1969, after repeated nightly riots in the University District, police detour traffic from University Way while volunteers spread out to cool potential unrest among teenagers.

Following the police action of the last few nights, it was clear to all that the police could neither prevent nor contain the violence in the streets. The city was considering ordering a curfew and summoning the National Guard when a delegation from the University District met with acting mayor Floyd Miller (he was filling out the term of Dorm Braman, who had joined the Nixon Administration) and veteran Deputy Mayor Ed Devine. Since the police had no better ideas, they agreed to let the community try to handle the situation.

The police closed University Way to traffic at dusk and parked several hundred Tactical Squad members out of sight, while scores of volunteers wearing "peace" armbands spread out.

Whenever a significant number of teens collected, street monitors plunged in to throw cold water on any ideas for looting or vandalism. It was a long, nerve-racking night, but every spark of potential violence was successfully doused.

The tactic was repeated the following night with equal success. By Sunday, the Ave was too cool to re-ignite and the police withdrew. The success of the community's self-pacification led to months of "negotiations" among street people, merchants, residents, clergy, students, police, and city officials to reduce police harassment and to establish a community center.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 154-155.

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