Remembering the 1967 Rose Bowl Riots

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Paul Saevig remembers the chaos that preceded the 1967 Rose Bowl game. It began on Nov. 21, 1966, when UCLA students halted traffic on the northbound San Diego Freeway near Wilshire Boulevard after learning that USC was selected to play in the 1967 Rose Bowl game.

Two days earlier, UCLA beat USC 14-7, with the Bruins finishing their season at 9-1 but only 3-1 in the conference. USC was 7-2, but conference champs at 4-1. The Trojans had one game left against Notre Dame — which they lost.

The Athletic Association of Western Universities, forerunner of the Pacific-10, selected USC to play in the Rose Bowl game despite UCLA’s victory and better overall record.

Under the headline “UCLA Rampage,” the Los Angeles Times reported:

Mounting resentment at UCLA over USC’s surprise Rose Bowl bid erupted into a wild rampage Monday when thousands of students stormed off campus, blocking traffic on the San Diego Freeway, shouting obscenities and starting bonfires.

The protest continued for more than seven hours, ending only after some 30 persons were arrested and others threatened with arrest…Massed processions ranging from 500 to 2,000 persons marched westward to the San Diego Freeway twice during the afternoon and evening and blocked traffic briefly both times.

Shortly before 10 p.m., police invoked the state’s unlawful assembly statue, usually reserved for control of major riots. Police immediately seized four of the more vociferous demonstrators, who protested the ruling. The action, along with a shouted warning over a bullhorn by Charles McClure, dean of student activities, put a damper on the protests. By 11 p.m. the campus was relatively quiet.”

“Los Angeles Times staff photographer George Fry covered the UCLA protests, getting one photo published under the Page One “UCLA Rampage” banner headline,” Saevig remembers.

Wayne Redfearn was not in the crowd that day, but remembers watching the action from the balcony of the Sigma Nu house. It is a story he has shared with his sons.

“It all started in front of the Sigma Nu/Beta House at Landfair and Gayley when several USC students began to taunt UCLA students,” Redfearn explains.

He continues to paint a picture of mayhem, saying “The USC students were pulled out of their cars unhurt and their cars were overturned and the protest was underway.”

According to Redfearn, the protesters moved to the San Diego Freeway with several hundred UCLA students stopping rush hour traffic and a few being arrested.

“As I recall, no one was injured. As a result of this, conference rules were changed and this injustice was rectified. These were the days when UCLA actually has a competitive football team,” Redfearn says.

In the end, Redfearn and Saevig agree that to some extent, justice was served. Purdue beat USC 14-13.

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