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Police raid triggers riot at Pasco's Volunteer Park on July 7 and 8, 1970.

HistoryLink.org Essay 7464 : Printer-Friendly Format

On July 7, 1970, after a two-week investigation, police raid Volunteer Park, located on 4th Avenue in Pasco. Officers arrest about 20 people. The next evening, while police are patrolling the park, youths bombard them with rocks and glass bottles. Police arrest several persons for carrying concealed weapons and disorderly conduct, among other charges. Pasco Mayor Ed Carter declares a citywide curfew until the unrest settles. This occurs on a Tuesday just before Water Follies weekend -- an annual festival in the Tri-Cities to celebrate summer with a parade, an arts and craft fair, hydroplane races, and a carnival.

Two weeks prior to the July 7 raid, police investigated drug trafficking in Volunteer Park. They made plans to enforce state law by conducting a surprise raid. Just prior to the raid, police received a tip that there could be trouble when they enforced the midnight curfew. 

At approximately 9:00 p.m., 20 police officers surrounded the park from all sides. Pasco Police Sergeant Glenn Butner and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stan Moore observed progress of the raid and assisted in the arrests. Female officers conducted pat-down searches of the women arrested. Initially, 12 people were arrested, and submitted peacefully to officers' demands.  They were charged mainly for possession of illegal substances. Police found marijuana, other drugs, and a sheath knife in the grass of the park to back up their claims. 

The next night, police were accosted as they patrolled the park. By 10:00 p.m., 100 youths had gathered, apparently upset at the raid. They began throwing rocks and bottles at the police officers. One man threw a fully loaded .38 revolver at a tree, and ran. Police tackled him. Nearly all officers were hit by rocks and several sustained injuries. KNDU-TV newsman Larry Voschall suffered a concussion when hit in the head with rocks.

Besides injuries, the youths inflicted property damage in and around the park. Some threw firebombs and one set fire to the giant spruce trees in front of the courthouse across the street from the park. When firefighters tried to put out the fire, youths threw rocks at them. The firefighters left when they saw that the courthouse itself was not on fire. The trees burned to the ground. These were old trees, planted in 1914, and their loss was a blow.

Someone either deliberately or accidentally broke several office windows while throwing rocks and bottles. Youths tipped two picnic tables on their sides and used them as a barricade. Some bottles and rocks struck the sides of cars driving down 4th Avenue. An exploding firebomb damaged the plate glass windows of Johnston Furs on 4th Avenue and police prevented looters from taking the contents. A few blocks down the street, youths broke into McVicker's Jewelry and stole rings and watches. Afterward the street was littered with broken glass.

Officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Innocent occupants of a car stuck in surrounding traffic were unintended victims of the gas when a canister rolled under their vehicle. Two hours later, state, county, and city police finally had the situation under control. There were still several hundred youths and adults loitering near the park, but no further violence occurred.  Police patrolled the area on foot to ensure no further problems developed. Four State Patrol cars patrolled downtown.

Ultimately, 29 people were arrested at the raid and after the riot. Two were juveniles. The others ranged in age from 18 to 26. One man was 47. Half of those arrested were female. The charges included resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, public drunkenness, possession of dangerous drugs, illegal sale of dangerous drugs, possession of narcotics, and probation violation. Pasco police took the male prisoners to the jail, and the county sheriff took the women. By the next day, all but four had posted bail.

In reaction to the riot, Acting Police Chief John Stredwick drafted a city ordinance prohibiting anyone from being on city streets between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Police would question violators. If residents had to go out at this time, they were required to report to the police in advance. Mayor Ed Carter did not stipulate how long the curfew would last, but indicated that it was temporary.  Businesses were required to close by 9:00 p.m. Anyone found in violation of the curfew was subject to a $500 fine. 

The curfew meant that the weekend Water Follies events would have to be rescheduled. Police patrolled the park the next evening and found some 100 youths gathered there about 8 p.m.  However, by the time of the 9 p.m. curfew, all had gone home. Because of their cooperation and that of their parents, the curfew was lifted the next day and Water Follies events went on as planned.

Sources:
"20 Youths Arrested in Raid on Park," Tri-City Herald (Kennewick), July 8, 1970, p. 1; Walker Roberts, "Undercover Work Preceded Raid," Ibid., July 8, 1970, p.17; Jack Briggs, "Rioting Youths Attack Police," Ibid., July 9, 1970, p. 1; "Curfew Imposed," Ibid., July 9, 1970, p. 1; Jack Briggs, "Angry Pasco Youths Burn Trees, Revile Policemen," Ibid., July 9, 1970, p. 17; Walker Roberts, "Pasco Quiet; Mayor Lifts Curfew," Ibid., July 10, 1970, p. 1.


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