Column: Struggle continues 40 years after Alcatraz

"On the night of Nov. 20, 1969, two rented boats filled with activists billing themselves "Indians of All Tribes" pulled ashore on Alcatraz. The lone inhabitant, a caretaker of the island's empty federal prison, offered no resistance beyond a few startled shouts.

Saturday, a handful of those initial occupiers and their supporters returned in very different circumstances: with the government's blessing, on a ferry that services this outpost of the National Park Service that receives 1.3 million visitors a year.

"This is a significant day for the island," said Howard Levitt, chief of education for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. "The occupation is considered to be a milestone in the self-determination and civil rights movements. We honor that."

The Park Service was not involved in organizing the morning-long ceremony to commemorate a 19-month event that remains a keystone in the turbulence of the late 1960s and early '70s. Nor was the ceremony linked to other events related to the anniversary, including an academic conference in Berkeley held last Friday and plans to project a movie about the occupation onto Coit Tower on Thanksgiving.

But where the government 40 years ago was the enemy - and in June 1971 removed the last of the occupiers - the Park Service Saturday provided free ferry rides for the participants. Once on shore, rangers loaded folding tables onto a pickup truck along with refreshments brought to the island by the organizers."

Get the Story:
John King: Indians return to Alcatraz 40 years later (The San Francisco Chronicle 11/22)

Also Today:
Coit a towering reminder of Alcatraz occupation (The San Francisco Chronicle 11/23)