Hampton Beach Project -- The Riots of 1964 -- Concluding Remarks

The Riots of 1964 -- Chapter 16

Research Director's Report
Manning Van Nostrand, Director of Research

Concluding Remarks

It is appropriate at this time to make some concluding remarks. WE need to see, at least in capsule form, how our collection of data either substantiates or conflicts with the hypotheses made at the beginning of the Project. Obviously, such relationships have been implicit throughout the report of the research data. Nonetheless, it might be well to make such relationships explicit. Secondly, it might be well to give some over-view as to the accomplishments of C.A.V.E. Finally, it would be important to attempt a sketch of the overall picture of Hampton Beach and suggest some possible reasons why there was no repetition of the 1964 Labor Day riot - from the standpoint of this Demonstration Project.

The fundamental assumption of this project was founded on the frustration-aggression hypothesis. This was the framework, together with role relationship analysis, in which we worked. It would seem that the Hampton Beach situation would suggest that the frustration-aggression hypothesis would apply only if and when other social and psychological conditions were conducive. By itself, this hypothesis is too one-dimensional to account for the richness of the social structures and inter-relationships. On the other hand, we see that the young people are frustrated precisely by that set of attitudes which is reflected in the business community. We had hypothesized: "That youth are resentful of exploitation of beach operators and town officials who are willing to take their business but who resent their presence and who mount hostility aggression in protecting their property and persons." This is probably true, but the hostility and aggression occur only under special situations. If the young people have more basic needs met, such as aggression does not seem to culminate between the youth and the businessman. Finally, we found a difference in attitude among the members of the business community; while their attitudes are slow to change, they are capable of changing.

We hypothesized that through peer group intervention tension would be reduced. WE have no way of really knowing whether or not this actually took place in quantifiable ways. We had hoped to measure such communication patterns in various group seminars. These opportunities because of the press of the summer season simply did not present themselves. We can say, however, that the general characteristics measured did not change, and that the situation which was changed was provided those elements of the youth population who have these values the opportunity to exert leadership. Perhaps some valuable information to this point could be deduced from Mr. Estaver's report. The hypothesis relating to the effect of "symbolic and concrete affirmation of identity…" are in the same general category. From the standpoint of the needs which were met, the standpoint of the activities attended we can say that these activities show a measurable kind of success. We can say that the activities of C.A.V.E. seem to provide a milieu in which effective social control among youth population is possible.

We hypothesized that "law enforcement agencies can more effectively deal with those determined to cause trouble if the majority of young people can be diverted from participation in the riot or have their needs met in more responsible ways." Obviously, we had no "riot" situation in which to test this hypothesis. However, the data from the observations scale seems to suggest that such an hypothesis is substantiated. The needs of the young people met in such a way that they there really was no need to intensive law enforcement methods. Another interesting facet is that the groups which contrasted the most were the arrested and non-arrested. This hints that there were some real differences between the young people, and, more importantly, that the young people with more stable personalities tended not to become involved with law enforcement officials.

Our last hypothesis was that there would be a "downward shift in aspiration level and social class position of those apprehended in any disturbance in a Labor Day, 1965, disturbance in comparison with those apprehended in 1964." Taking into account the extremely small sample, ten interviews, we see a nearly total reversal of this hypothesis. Because of the very small sample size it is difficult to make any valid generalizations. However, it would appear that a totally new kind of situation existed in the Labor Day weekend of 1965. The arrested young people interviewed after the 1965 Labor Day weekend were a very responsible, bright group of young people who seemingly had a great deal of personal stability.

Our second question is concerned with the accomplishments of the C.A.V.E. organization. WE might say that two primary things were accomplished. The first was that a genuine beginning of a responsible teen-age or young adult leisure society was created, a society in which patterns of normal communication, the more healthy release of tension through desired forms of activity was facilitated. As a by-product those structures which do build tension culminating in riotous disturbances were replaced.

The second primary accomplishment was a gaining of the deeper understand of youth (at least by the community). It was discovered that the standard dichotomies of good vs. bad, in vs. out, are erroneous. We began as a community to see hostile kids, lonely kids, adjusted and non-adjusted kids; conflict and lack of conflict in the same youngsters. And still, we have but scratched the surface.

One might mention that a better understanding of adults was gained - especially the adult tourist. He is no where near as forbidding as the merchant would describe him. The adult tourist would be more than tolerant of youthful recreation activities. This is one of the more important bits of understanding gained over the summer experience.

Let us now attempt to wrap up this report with a summarization of what might be conceived as the dynamics of the situation of Hampton Beach particularly as we contrast the summer of 1964 with the summer of 1965. It is rather evident that the youth of Hampton Beach in the summer of 1965 had the same general characteristics of the youth which were interviewed as participants in the Labor Day riot of 1964. Why, then, was there no riot at the end of the 1965 season? Obviously, because there was a preponderance of police authority on the beach during the summer of 1965 and especially during Labor Day of 1965. This would be the answer of many people. Our data suggest that such is no where near the entire truth of the matter. As a rule, of course, we would not mean to imply that proper law enforcement is not needed. But, an over-abundance of police is mostly irrelevant because the conflict between the youth and the adult world is not primarily located within a quarrel with the representatives of authority. Such intensive police work simply irritates the basic underlying problems and serves to bring to the surface latent conflicts which then erupt in the face of those who symbolize authority, the police. Moreover, as was pointed out in the Beach Observation data, the activity of the police in breaking up the large crowds might well serve to disrupt the communications process between the hostile and the more responsible young people. Given the proper kinds of backing, these more responsible youth can then influence the more hostile youth toward less combative stance toward society. Finally, our data from the police themselves seems to show that they are rather undecided as to how to proceed. The data which we have gathered seems to show that the way they did proceed was largely irrelevant, and that they did not really prevent any outbreak of violence but simply did not experience any outbreak of violence.

In the light of this discussion concerning the police, we much duly note that among the arrested in particular that there is a very real possibility of conflict with authority - regardless of how we trace out the dynamics and probable causes of that conflict.

Originally, we hypothesized that if we could somehow occupy the middle-class, relatively untroubled youth during the summer season, that there would be no riot essentially because riot depended on a mass of people for its effectiveness. We have seen that there are latent frustrations among the young people on Hampton Beach. But, and this is the important point, for the majority of young people, their conflicts do not center around the problem with authority - at least as it is represented by law enforcement.

If sufficient recognition is given to the majority of young people, as through a Project as C.A.V.E., we can reasonably suppose that the majority of the young people will find it possible to live within the situation of the beach community. They were, in other words, occupied with their own more important affairs. If, on the other hand, no such outlets are provided for the average youngster, it is possible that they do become vulnerable to the leadership of the more hostile youngsters we encounter in the arrested group. The latent conflicts among the average youngster, apparently, can be mobilized and transferred to the authority figures represented by the police and the business community people. We have also seen that there is a strong possibility that the lonely youngster is actually indifferent to what is really going on, has a lack of concern about himself and is thereby more readily mobilized to participation in a riot. He has, you might say, nothing to loose and nothing to gain. He simply has less resources within his personality to withstand the persuasiveness and the power of the acted-out hostility provided by the riot leader. Once this momentum is began, the average youngster who ordinarily would not cause trouble looses his usual controls over his hitherto suppressed frustrations and gets involved in the riot.

By working back into this situation and creating more investment on the part of the more average, more emotionally stable young people, it is possible to create a climate in which the "loners" drift with this group into the more constructive or less harmful forms of activity. The arrested or hostile group of young people do not find it possible to compete with this kind of leadership, and thereby isolated. They cannot crate these kinds of disturbances unless they mobilize other youth around them.

It is more then possible that we can find more constructive methods of dealing with the personality conflicts which we have observed within the arrested group. With better and more knowledgeable leadership skilled in the general areas of social work, it is a good possibility that we can do a better job of reaching these hostile youth. If the outline of what we have suggested concerning the dynamics of how the arrested youth became involved with the authorities is even close, we see in the fact that he does drift into youth-sponsored activities gives watchful and skilled people the opportunity to create those kinds of positive aids for helping this hostile youngsters begin to resolve his problem. It can be assumed that the arrested young person will not be helped by the arrest. He will be helped most by learning to relate to other people effectively.

While we are still not entirely positive about working with people in these relatively complex areas, we do know enough to conduct some promising kinds of programming. The more serious question lies in the community, and whether or not it really wants to provide the kinds of leadership making possible these programs. We see that youth feels that it is belittled by the adult world. This perception of theirs is not entirely fantasy. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that if programs like this are begun, they should not be dropped in the middle. That is to say, a program such as the one begun on Hampton Beach in the summer of 1965 is simply not completed in one season. Opposition from the business community should be regarded as simply part of the social process that one can expect to find. The resistance of a community and its hesitancy to adopt certain social goals is likewise part of the nature of the situations. It, of course, remains to be seen what will happen if there is no continuation of the work on Hampton Beach. There is a growing willingness to have some kind of project, but it is unreasonable to expect that a business community will so change its attitudes in three hectic months of a summer season in which it has to make an entire year's wage to think about the issues involved in the generational conflict. It would seem to be a conclusion of the his report that anything accomplished this one season is grossly incomplete. Any projects which any community or agency contemplates, therefore, should be seen in terms of a number of summers - not a "one shot" attempt to do the impossible.

Let us conclude with the comment of a young man who was interviewed after his brief trail rising out of some altercation during the Labor Day weekend of 1965. Throughout his high school years this young man lived alone. His parents had separated, and he was ambitious and bright enough to provide enough money for himself to afford to live alone in an apartment while he was going to high school. Although he did not do very will in the academic aspect of his secondary education, he was bright enough to work up to a foreman's position within a year of graduation from high school. He was making enough money to dress well and to buy a new Ford Mustang. In fact, he was making so much money that he was "sick of making money," as he put it. He was very nearly twenty years old, and had decided to go into the army because there seemed to be no challenge in the world he was living. The comment he made at the end of the interview seemed to sum up much of what these young men are feeling. He said something to the effect that the things that teen-agers do now don't interest him a bit, but that he does not know what to do to have fun. In fact, he confessed, he really was afraid to grow up and be a man because he did not know what a man really was.