Art Kunkin founder of the Los Angeles Free Press, was the most visionary, most influential journalist in the history of Southern California since Lincoln Steffens. In 1965, Art founded the Free Press as an antidote to the Enslaved Press, the LA Times and other, now-forgotten, rags.
In the midst of the War in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement, only The Freep, as we called it, gave us raw news and photos banished from the LA Times and TV network boob tube news.
I’ll never forget, though I was only 14, the evening of June 23, 1967. LA police beat the crap out of peaceful antiwar demonstrators. The city’s TV news pretended it didn’t happen, and the LA Times said that the poor police were attacked by demonstrators. In a special edition handed out in the street, Art Kunkin had the balls to publish the photos of the police batons coming down on the heads of bleeding protesters. Art Kunkin called it what it was, “a police riot.”
(The LA Times is so ashamed of their cover-up of that bloody police assault, they’ve removed the original story from their archives and covered it up with a “new” story.)
There were many other police riots, and Art Kunkin was not afraid to name them — and take on the brutal praetorian guard of the rulers and owners of Los Angeles.
I’m looking at the headline from the Free Press of April 1969, “Venice free show smashed by LAPD rioters.” (And yes, while I’ve lived and reported from all over the world, I’ve carried these newspapers with me—50-year-old textbooks in real journalism.)
It just makes me furious that the LA Times obituary denigrates Art Kunkin as some harmless old counter-culture hippie with an “alternative” newsletter. The news is news, and there is no “alternative.” Art Kunkin brought us the news from Vietnam, from the civil rights movement here in LA — and introduced us to revolutionary art, film and music — and had no trouble printing photos of boys kissing boys and other reports of the revolutions, sexual, political and artistic.
The truth is, it was Art who started that police riot in Venice. The Freep had sponsored a multiracial love-in and free music rock concert (with Country Joe leading the crowd in the chant “F-U-C-K the war!,”) scented by joyously illegal marijuana. While I know that Art personally tried to stop the police from running riot, he surely knew that freedom publicly expressed would provoke the burghers of the city and their blue meanies.
Today, we need new Art Kunkins. The LA Times is still the shill of the LA Police (and, few people knew, until recently, the Times’ was owned by the LAPD). The resource-and-real-estate mafia still rules this state and still owns the Bullshit Factory we call “media.”
I hope my words on Saturday will provoke a riot… not the kind where people burn stuff down — and God knows, today the cops won’t beat you, they’ll shoot you — it’s the riot, the revolution, the resistance we need inside our heads, from where we must banish the hold the enslaving press — and let the Art Kunkin, The Freeper in our souls, out to play and make trouble.