BACKSTORY (August 6, 1970): It was a dark day in Disneyland history, which also was the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. In protest of the Disneyland dress code (long hair & mini-skirts were not originally allowed at Disneyland, but ironically by the time of the Yippie invasion, this policy had already been relaxed), The Bank of America’s Disneyland sponsorship (and the fact that BOA was also pro-Vietnam war), 500 flyers were distributed underground by David Sacks (not the 10,000 often reported by an over-active imagination). The schedule for this day included according to the flyer:
Black Panther Hot Breakfast: 9am—10am at Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House
Young Pirates League: 11am on Captain Hook’s boat
Women’s Liberation: 12 noon rally to liberate Minnie Mouse in front of Fantasyland
Self Defense Collective: 1pm—2pm at shooting gallery in Frontierland
Mid-Day Feast: 3pm barbecue of Porky Pig
Late in the afternoon Yippies plan to infiltrate and liberate Tom Sawyer’s Island. Declaring a free state, brothers and sisters will then have a smoke-in and festival. Get it on over to Disneyland, August 6. YIPPIE!
The only event that actually occurred was the smoke-in on Tom Sawyer’s Island (although a few showed up for breakfast at Aunt J’s). After “capturing” Castle Rock, raising the Viet Cong flag, and getting stoned there, the Yippies marched down Main Street, harassed the Disneyland Marching Band, and sang the theme song to the Mickey Mouse Club as well as “We are marching to Cambodia.” Disneyland and Anaheim prepared for 200,000 troublemakers; approximately 300 showed up, and probably half were just curiousity seekers who joined in the “fun.” The Yippies were basically just a nuisance, running between the marching band players, smoking pot in Adventures Thru Innerspace, climbing the mast of the Chicken of the Sea pirate ship, and dozens more tried to cause a commotion outside the entrance gates, complaining about the establishment. Even when offered a group rate of 50 cents each by park VP Dick Nunis, the Yippies refused. Guests who wanted to be at Disneyland sang “God Bless America” in retaliation to the Yippies. Out in the parking lot, things got more violent as the Yippies and police got into scuffles. The park actually closed 5 hours early; the first time in park history.
I was contacted by a former park employee, Barry, about Yippie Day. Here are his vivid recollections:
I was a supervisor at Disneyland from 1969-1974 and remember that day well. It was my day off but all supervisors were required to be “on call” that day. The LA Free Press advertised the Yippie Day event and Disney officials (Dick Nunis, Ron Dominguez and Jim Cora) were going to make absolutely certain that Disneyland would be prepared for any disruption that might occur.
I remember meeting in the Mickey Mouse Theater (with all other park supervisors) earlier in the week. I believe Disney management brought in a representative from the Anaheim PD- That part of the meeting is fuzzy but I do recall that all of us were assigned specific responsibilities. I was assigned to the Main Street hub area in front of Carnation Plaza Gardens. My assignment: sit on a bench all day watching for any signs of trouble. Shortly after I sat down, a “hippie” sits down next to me, notices my Mickey Mouse watch, and asks me if I work here; cover blown.
It was a long day and nothing really happened in my area until late afternoon. A Conga line was forming and about 25 or more Yippies snaked through the Main Street hub area chanting “LSD has a hold on me.” Funny how I can still vividly remember the chant and see the happenings before me with crystal clarity. The rest of the day was a blur; I knew that Orange County’s finest were in the staging area between Main Street and the Administration Building in full riot gear. I remember the Seal Beach PD had quite a reputation for brutality and they were there.
Word filtered down that the Yippies had taken over Tom Sawyer’s Island and had replaced the American flag with the Viet Com flag which ultimately was the final undoing of the Yippies. The police came out, the announcement was made that the park was closing and people were being asked to leave. I was on Main Street near Carnation Ice Cream Parlor and watched the police push the Yippies down Main Street toward the park exit. As I followed the action, I found myself pushed down the street and ended up by Hills Brothers. I watched the ultimate—some Yippie trying to pull down the big American flag in Town Square and Dick Nunis, head of Disneyland, punch the guy in the face. The crowd continued to be herded out to the parking lot. It was beginning to get dark and plan “B” was put into affect. All of the supervisors were asked to report to their perimeter positions to safeguard the park from any Yippies who might to climb the fence. We were actually given steel poles to bash fingers if they tried to climb the fence. I had a prime spot at the parking lot exit directly across the street from the hotel—lots of yelling, screaming, and tear gas. Things quieted down about 11pm and by midnight we were allowed to leave our post and go home.
For several years after, no one with long hair was allowed in Disneyland. Working at Disney back then, the grooming standards were strict. For males, it was no long hair, no facial hair, side burns to mid ear. From 1967-1971 the Marines would frequent Disneyland and the Harbor Blvd/Katella area- kind of a last R and R before they want to Viet Nam. We were always asked if we were marines on leave because of the short hair. I did not do well in the social arena outside of my Disney social network! However, I did meet my wife at Disneyland (a waitress at the Blue Bayou) and 35 years later we are still going strong!
For the 4th photo from the left, in the first row, the publicity caption stated:
ANAHEIM, Calif., Aug. 6--HIPPIE DISTURBANCE CLOSES DISNEYLAND--Police wearing flak jackets seal off sections of Disneyland as officials closed the famed Anaheim, Calif., amusement park tonight because of demonstrations by hippie-types, who had announced they wanted to "liberate" Disneyland as a symbol of the establishment. There were arrests. About 29,000 people were in the park when the closing was announced.
For the 2nd photo from the right, in the first row, the publicity caption stated:
ANAHEIM, Calif., Aug. 7--HIPPIES FORCE DISNEYLAND TO CLOSE--Long-haired youths forming a hippie-chain demonstrate in the town square at Disneyland yesterday, shortly before officials closed the vast amusement park six hours early. About 29,000 people were in the park when police began clearing it. There were 18 arrests. Disneyland's Matterhorn in center background.
I was recently contacted by David Sacks, who was the organizer (along with Michael Dale) behind the Yippie Invasion. David sent me these additional details about this infamous day in Disneyland history:
“For over 25 years, the Yippies back east never knew how the event came to happen. Michael and I were not into any kind of visible leader thing. We were too anti-authoritarian for that. I made up the schedule. It was pure fiction. Heck, the Black Panther breakfast at Aunt Jemina’s Kitchen was supposedly at 9 am, an hour before Disneyland even opened their doors. The liberation of Tom Sawyer Island was the only event that really happened as scheduled.
“When I bought my ticket, I had asked for a clerical discount (since I was a minister in the Universal Life Church and my license said Rev. David Sacks). Boy did that cause a scene as I looked like the rest of our motley crew. Very shortly after the invasion, they dropped clerical discounts.
“The first police that I saw appear were wearing brand new riot gear. But that only represented a small amount of the hundreds of police they had hiding behind the buildings on Main Street. I am pretty sure I know the fellow in the foreground of this picture. He lives in NYC and if I am not mistaken, he later became rather infamous for throwing pies in the faces of some rather important people.
“The people who had gotten off the first two rafts for Tom Sawyer Island (that’s about what it was, two raftloads of people) decided to march down Main Street in Disneyland, singing various odes to sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, until they got to City Hall, where they have the American flag on a flagpost. And there was an empty flagpost. Someone pulled out a so-called Yippie flag, red and black with a green marijuana leaf, and started to raise it on the flagpole. An Orange County redneck came storming up to them and said “How dare you raise that flag next to the American flag!” And someone else went to the other flagpole as this guy was trying to rip down the Yippie flag, and said “If you rip down our flag we'll rip down your flag.” He started to try to untie the American flag to bring it down. At which point fisticuffs broke out and Orange County’s finest appeared out from behind all the buildings of Disneyland, 800 police in brand new yellow riot gear (this was the first chance that Orange County had had to test out their new riot gear). These guys looked like something out of a comic book. It looked hi-tech before that was even a word. All of a sudden, the whole circle promenade was circled with these police. I come out and I see all these police in riot gear, I knew something had happened. They start making an announcement over the bullhorns, “Due to the unfortunate actions of a few people, Disneyland must close for the day.” Now you gotta realize there’s about 25,000 guests and there may have been 200 Yippies there. Of the 200 “Yippies” I'd say 100 of them were just freaks who were really apolitical but thought it would be fun to come to Disneyland and trip around that day, with the idea of liberating Tom Sawyer. They liked the sense of humor rather than any political statement. So I’m standing there, my hair’s halfway down my back, and they’re making these announcements “Will everybody start moving towards the exits.” And so all of a sudden this policeman comes up to me and says “You! Get your ass moving!” and just jabs me right in the ribs with his nightstick.
“We got picked up by either Time or Newsweek and there was an article in there about the events that were on our flyer, as if they actually happened. The headline in the LA Times the next day was “Yippies Close Disneyland.””
Andrew Midkiff sent me these fantastic color photos that he shot on Yippie Day, and included his story as well:
“The next day the LA Times headlines read ‘YIPPIES OUTBURST SHUTS DISNEYLAND.’ That was BS the headline should have read "COPS SHUT DISNEYLAND TO KICK OUT LONGHAIRS" or better yet ‘YIPPIES TURNED ON IN TOMORROWLAND.’ I was18 years old at the time. August 6, 1970 I hitchhiked from Alhambra to Disneyland to be a part of Yippie Day. All I wanted was to take photos of the event and get high. I took the photos you see here, and getting high was no problem. When I first got to the park I met this guy that had a good size stash of weed on him. He let me hang out with him most of the day. He is pictured in the first photo and is wearing a green tank top. I thought this was an interesting photo because the straight dude on the left seems to be watching us. We spent about an hour at various concerts sitting with the straights and smoking grass right in front of them. That may have been part of the problem as far as complaints. I wanted to score some acid but no luck. After the cops showed up I'm glad I did not get any.
When I got to Tom Sawyer’s island there was plenty of weed and people were smoking, standing around talking, and playing frisbee. Someone ran up the Viet Cong flag. We left the island and the next thing I remember I was in a crowd of people and police appeared in riot gear and pushed us right out of the park. I heard a scuffle broke out but I did not see it.
I have no idea what caused the police to come in. I was just having a good time when the cops appeared and I got pushed right out of the park. On Captain Hooks pirate ship something happened but I never found out what, too busy getting high. In the 4th this guy was met by a load of press photographers. At the time I thought he was burning a draft card but like I said I never found out. There were lots of cameras that day and film being shot too. I hope some of it surfaces some day. I know my photo was taken by the press so it sure would be interesting to see more photos. I spent the next half hour looking for a ride. Fortunately some nice freaks I met in the parking lot drove me home.”
To view Andrew's video tribute to the day, visit Youtube.
“There never were any Yippies and there never will be. it was a slogan YIPPIE! and that exclamation point was what it was all about. It was the biggest put-on of all time. If you believe Yippies existed, you are nothing but sheep.”
Abbie Hoffman, Revolution For The Hell Of It
Yippie day, I was there and almost all the recollections I read have been cloaked in a haze. I guess I was one of the apolitical ones that thought the idea was funny and an innocuous way to thumb it to the man. I went there every year for a long time on Bank of America nights.I had fun on the rides, people watched, and for the most part was just being a teenager. Everyone I saw was enjoying the park. I did get on the island and it was just a bunch of teens running around having fun. I left when they raised that flag; thought that was stupid and they having never been to Vietnam should go there if they did not like the U.S. I was on Pirates of the Caribbean when the lights went on; it was disappointing to see the ride with the lights on. We were ushered to the castle. Once there in the ring of riot police, everyone was told to leave. Police did ring the street and the roof tops. The only thing that ticked me off was everyone who looked a bit different was verbally harassed and threatened. I got screamed at for ruining some family’s day by a mom; I just said “Sorry, my day got ruined too,” to which the dad said “Fuck off, you damn hippie” or something like that. So if anything did happen, it was the so called straights that caused it.
I was there on Yippie Day. I was ten years old and it was my first trip to Disneyland. Now I always have the best story about my childhood trip to the “Happiest place on Earth.”
I remember staying at the Disneyland hotel, and the stores in the hotel getting looted. I remember the helicopter flying low over the hotel grounds with a search light, and police and hotel security chasing people. I remember the riot police marching down the street in riot gear and riot formation. I remember seeing young men trying to unfasten a parking lot chain to use as a weapon, and when I fell because my mother and I were running to catch up with my brother and father who had gotten separated because of the surge of the crowd, they turned to us and said “Don't worry, don't cry little girl, everything will be alright.” For a ten year old, it was frightening. It didn't seem as if everything would be alright. The shenanigans weren’t limited to the park. It spilled over to the hotel, too. Despite all of that, I'm still a staunch liberal democrat. But I'm always a little torn about how to feel about what happened that day. I've never met anyone else who was there—a lot of people have difficulty believing that it happened. Even some older friends in LA who would’ve been in their 20s at the time don’t remember it happenning. It's still very clear in my mind, though. I even remember a kid in the elevator with his family who joked about how they weren't lost even though they were. The Disney Hotel staff had red shorts. I put on sneakers so that if the hotel was set on fire, I would be able to run down the stairwell faster. We witnessed a few scuffles through the day, but it wasn't clear who started what. I do remember my father saying that the Yippies wanted free rides because either Walt Disney or his father had been a socialist (who knows where he got that from??). While I don't question those who say Disneyland over-reacted, being a kid, it was scary. We didn’t think it was cool.
We were from Hawaii. It was a big deal to get to go to the mainland for a middle-class family. We had to travel so far to get there, and it would probably be the only Disneyland experience we'd have as kids. It was a turbulent time. Our family was anti-war, anti-Nixon amd mistrustful of the government, but at the same time very well-behaved. My brother and I were hippie-sympathetic, we were still kids and wanted to have a fun experience at Disneyland.
Shortly after the riot, maybe a day or so, as we were driving back up to LA, we heard on the car radio about the Angela Davis courthouse incident. I guess we're lucky—who else can say they had a trip like ours?
I stumbled across your webpage about the August 6, 1970 Yippie invasion of Disneyland. I was there that day! I was six years old, but I seem to remember it somewhat clearly.
My parents had driven us three kids from Oklahoma for a big 2-week family vacation in a red Rambler station wagon, with our luggage in a big homemade plywood box strapped to the top of the car. Of course there were no car seats, no seat belts, and both parents smoked with all the windows rolled up. I don't remember much about our time in the L.A. area except for that day at Disneyland. We must have gotten there late in the day, because I specifically recall that we never even made it over to Tomorrowland before we had to leave, which was the most upsetting thing to me. I wanted to ride the rockets! After we rode It's a Small World, I remember my mother trying to remain calm, but she was crying as we hurried all the way across the park to leave. "Hippies have taken over the park and raised their flag" was all that they could tell us. And there were police; I remember the police. There seemed to be a minor panicky state especially amongst the mothers ushering their kids out to the parking lot. And then it took us a very very long time to get out of the parking lot. Hours, I think.
We never talked about that day, and I never really thought about it until many years later... I think it was the late 80's or early 90's when a hurricane or a major storm forced the closing of Disneyland. I happened to be at my mother's house that day when I heard a newscaster say that it was only the second time Disneyland had been forced to close. Suddenly the memories came flooding back and I said "I know what the first time was!" My mother and older sister comfirmed that I had remembered it correctly.
Ahhh, good times.
Thanks for the memories,
A few of my readers have shared these memories:
From Anonymous: Happy Yippie Anniversary. 40 years ago today. I can relate to Connie. I too was at work that evening at Hill's Bros. While I did not see Dick in action, I saw the lines of police..the streaming crowd re-routed through the side lot and back into Town Square. I heard the announcements as they shut the park down land by land. It was a very weird sight to see. There were many police cars lined up near the DRC. My girlfriend (also from HB) and I were trapped in her car when we attempted to get out of the parking lot at West Street while the Yippes ran by and lines of police marched them further away. Glad to see a blog site who remembers this once-in-a-lifetime event. I got paid a full day...for shift that was supposed to run to 12:30am. I think we were released at 8pm.
From KDT: I was there that day, just a kid from the midwest visiting with my family. We were staying at the Disneyland Hotel, and I remember two things vividly: having to leave the park early and seeing a Disney castmember with a broom and dustbin angrily sweeping what in my memory looked like lemons off of the street (it was the only time I'd ever seen an angry castmember!); the other thing I remember is seeing three kids skipping hand-in-hand through an arcade area of the hotel, chanting "Hell no, we won't go!" My tender ears were shocked at the language, and I was a little scared to be around these bold, loud kids.
Michael Fancher, who was there at Disneyland on Yippie Day, found my site through a little googling. He has shared these recollections of that day:
The date was August 6, 1970. Press reports had warned that the Yippies (Youth International Party) were planning to “liberate” Disneyland that day, but my family didn’t give it much thought.
I had started my first real job as a reporter at the Kansas City Star in February and was back home to visit my parents in California. Our family had moved from Long Beach to Orange County within a year of Disneyland’s opening in 1955. Although we lived in Garden Grove, our house was just blocks from the theme park in Anaheim.
We had visited Disneyland many dozens of times over the years and we assumed this day would be fun as always, and it was until early evening. When we came off the moon rocket ride in Tomorrowland, the police helicopter was overhead and a voice over the loud speaker announced Disneyland was closed. Everyone was to move immediately to the exit.
We walked toward Main Street and saw a line of riot police in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the gateway to Fantasyland. Park patrons walked down the middle of Main Street. The sidewalks on both sides were lined with police from departments throughout Orange County. It was, to use a term common in that era, mind blowing. Ironically, Disneyland was closing early because the Youth International Party had, in fact, blown the minds of Disney officials and local law enforcement.
The Anaheim Police Department and Disney officials had taken the situation very seriously. A departmental history says the Los Angeles Free Press had publicized the “Yippie Pow Wow” extensively and some 100,000 leaflets about it were distributed nationally. The history says:
“Hippies were encouraged to attend this non-sponsored event ‘to liberate Minnie Mouse, have free rein of the park and infiltrate Tom Sawyer’s Island.’ Warned that Disneyland would not allow the Yippies admission to the park without a ticket, the coordinators encouraged people to ‘tear down the walls.’ The LA Free Press warned its readers to prepare for a confrontation, advising that Anaheim Police Officers were undergoing riot training and may be heavily armed.”
The history says that on the morning of Aug. 6: “Anaheim Police and Disneyland personnel were prepared for the Yippie take-over. As the gates opened, 300 Yippies made their entrance into the park. Anaheim Police waited in riot formation behind Main Street while Disneyland administrators and cast members dealt with the small group of unruly hippies.”
As hundreds of police hid behind the scenes, the day was mostly peaceful. In the late afternoon, a group of Yippies hoisted a Viet Cong flag atop a mountain on Tom Sawyer’s Island. Later, the history says: “The Yippies assembled on Main Street and tried to gain unity in an attempt to disrupt park activity and cause damage to the park. As security officers attempted to gain order, one of Disneyland’s security officers was assaulted. At that point the police were called upon to evict the Yippies from the park. As park guests watched and cheered, hundreds of police officers marched onto Main Street in formation and began their slow and deliberate sweep to clear the unruly crowd. Instead of departing, the Yippies broke up and spread throughout the park. Police remained in formation on Main Street as Disneyland personnel cleared the park section by section and declared the park closed for the day.”
Disneyland was officially closed at 7:10 p.m. The only previous unanticipated closure was Nov. 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Since then, Disneyland has closed unexpectedly and for the full day only one other time, Sept. 11, 2001.
By the time my family and I made our way to the exit, it was getting dark. The helicopter was shining its light down on the ground, apparently to spot Yippies hiding out. The scene was quite unsettling.
As we walked out the gate, a television news crew seemingly came out of nowhere. The breathless reporter pointed his microphone at my mother and asked her name and where she lived. After she answered, the reporter asked if she was upset that Disneyland officials had closed the park. With all of the poise in the world, Mom said she wasn’t upset, that she was sure they did what they thought best. I think she even added that she was looking forward to coming back.
As soon as the cameraman and reporter moved on, Mom broke into tears. It was all just too much by then. She was even more upset when I said I was going to stick around in case more of a story broke out. It didn’t. There were some skirmishes outside Disneyland Hotel, but by midnight all of the police were sent home.
I was 24 years old at the time. Mom, who died in 1992, would have been 60. Hard to imagine she was younger then than I am today. Over all of these years I have remembered two things most vividly about the day: my mom gracefully holding her own with the TV reporter, and the riot police along Main Street.
We went to Disneyland so often that we seldom took pictures during our visits, and we didn’t that day. So, I’ve often wondered whether my memory of the scene is accurate. In preparing to write this story, I searched the Internet and found davelandweb.com. This site has photos that confirm my recollection. It was, indeed, surreal to have riot police lining the street at the “happiest place on earth.”
Security officers at Disneyland screen long haired youths as they arrive at Disneyland in an effort to prevent a reoccurence of events August 6 in which the famed amusement park was closed down early in the evening when a group celebrating “Yippie Day” became unruly and matters got out of control. This particular group was turned down and loaded on a motor scooter, taken back to their car and asked to leave.