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Disneyland Article
We Are Going To Liberate Minnie Mouse The Day Yippies Invaded And Shut Down The Park
Julie Tremaine
Before the pandemic shuttered Disneyland in March, there had only been a few days that the park had unplanned closures: the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, after the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and after 9/11. But there was another day, in 1970, when Disneyland was overtaken by protesters, whose number and fury — about Minnie Mouse and miniskirts — closed the park early.

The Youth International Party was not your average group of young and angry political protesters, who were gathering by the hundreds of thousands in the late 1960s to voice their anger against the Vietnam War and what they felt was a too-restrictive societal structure. The Yippies, as they called themselves, employed more dramatic, attention-grabbing tactics to amplify their voices and have their protests heard.

History.com describes the Yippies as “a loosely held confederacy of anarchists, artists and societal dropouts” and “a groundswell of long-haired kids calling for revolution,” who were “political pranksters” using over-the-top ploys to make headlines. At a protest outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, they nominated Pigasus the Pig, an actual live pig, as a candidate for president. At the March on the Pentagon that same year, the Yippies threatened to “levitate the Pentagon” by performing an exorcism on a makeshift altar outside the building to cast out the evil they felt resided inside.

So it might not surprise you that, when the Yippies set their sights on Disneyland, they employed similar tactics, attempting to take over the park and exorcise what they perceived were the ills of its corporate nature.

During the summer of 1970, word started to spread of a Yippie gathering at Disneyland, called the International Yippie Pow Wow in the underground newspaper the Los Angeles Free Press. Their plan: a day full of “deliberately theatrical events, like a Black Panther’s hot breakfast at Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House,” as Jim Hill writes for Huffpost, “not to mention a Women’s Liberation-inspired moment when the female Yippies were to have gathered in Fantasyland to liberate Minnie Mouse.”

Aug. 6, 1970 marked the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by Allied forces in World War II. On that day, hundreds of Yippies walked through the gates of Disneyland, intent on having their voices heard. They were angry about Bank of America’s involvement in the park — a sponsor of Disneyland and supporter of the Vietnam War — but also about what they viewed as overly restrictive park rules, like the dress code. At that time, miniskirts on women and long hair on men were not permitted. (Now, the only real restrictions on what you can’t wear to Disneyland are that you can’t wear anything profane, and you can’t dress in costume as an adult.)

Because of their extensive advance advertisement, the Yippies’ descent on Disneyland was known and anticipated by the park. Hill writes that the park called in 150 Anaheim and Fullerton police officers in full riot gear to control the 200 to 300 protesters who entered the park that day. And for most of the day, the Yippies stayed pretty quiet. “Managers continually scurried around the park, going up to individual groups of long-haired kids and asking them to ‘please be cool,’” Hill writes, “to be respectful of all the other guests who’d come out to the park that day with their families, to not ruin these other people’s fun with their Yippie activities.”

Theme park writer Stephen M. Silverman was a teenage cast member selling ice cream on the day of the Yippie invasion.

“Anyone under the age of 30 and not pushing a stroller was eyed with suspicion,” he writes for Los Angeles Magazine. “Reaction inside Carnation Plaza Gardens, where I stood guard over the tubs of ice cream, was a bit tense. ‘Tom Sawyer Island has been shut down!’ The hot dog cook alerted the staff around 4 p.m., as if announcing the British invasion.”

Though there was no liberation of Minnie Mouse, and the leaders of the Yippie movement never showed up in the park that day, there were some disruptive events. Yippies were walking up and down Main Street U.S.A. chanting, “LSD has a hold on me,” and climbing into the rigging of Captain Hook’s ship outside of New Orleans Square.

They weren’t, though, disruptive enough for the protesters. As the evening fell, Yippies escalated their tactics by taking over Fort Wilderness on Tom Sawyer’s Island. “Their goal was to scandalize the guests who were already on the Island by pulling down the Stars and Stripes and replacing it with their Yippie flag,” Hill writes. “They also tried to get a reaction out of the tourists floating by on the Mark Twain riverboat and the Mike Fink keelboats by chanting slogans like ‘free Charles Manson’ and ‘legalize marijuana,’ while openly smoking pot.”

But Tom Sawyer’s Island is separated from the rest of Disneyland by the Rivers of America, so their efforts didn’t garner much attention. And when they gathered to protest in front of the Bank of America branch that used to be on Main Street, nearby guests sang, “God Bless America,” to drown out their chants. Things got heated afterward — someone tried to tear down the American flag flying in front of the Disneyland Railroad station — and that’s when arrests were made, 23 in all. The park was closed for the day at 8 p.m., rather than its scheduled 1 a.m. closure, as an attempt to control the pandemonium.

Disneyland history blog Daveland has collected histories of people who were at the park that day, including one of an anonymous guest who was 10 years old that day and vacationing at Disneyland with her family.

“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 searchlight, and police and hotel security chasing people. I remember the riot police marching down the street in riot gear and riot formation,” she recalls. “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.”

Despite the fear and the chaos, the protest was largely ineffectual. The Yippies might be pleased to know that there’s no longer a Bank of America on Main Street, but would definitely be incensed at the cost of a single-day ticket to Disneyland, which could cost as much as $150 just before the 2020 closure. At least, if you’ve agreed to pay that price today, you can go in a miniskirt.

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