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From the Archives: 39 arrested in Vietnam War protest in Del

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Fifty years ago in Del Mar 39 people were arrested and four injured after demonstrators set fire to a pile of timbers on the train tracks to protest the transport of munitions to San Diego’s military bases during the Vietnam War.

In May of 1972 police clashed with antiwar demonstrators coast-to-coast in response to President Nixon’s decision to increase the bombing of North Vietnam in order to convince Hanoi to negotiate for peace.

From the Evening Tribune, Saturday, May 13, 1972:

39 arrested at protest in Del Mar

EVENING TRIBUNE Dispatch

DEL MAR — An antiwar demonstration aimed at blockading war shipments by rail resulted in 39 arrests and four injuries yesterday.

A sheriff’s deputy suffered a fracture elbow in the incident.

About 400 protestors took part in the demonstration, deputies said. Several protesters said they were attracted by a leaflet which offered a free beer party along with an effort to stop a train.

A sheriff’s department spokesman said that a train carrying war material had been due at the depot but was canceled in anticipation of the demonstration.

The protest activity began about 5 p.m. when about 50 persons gathered at the Santa Fe depot here, then moved to the rail crossing just north of15th St. and Coast Blvd., where they were joined by several hundred others.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the sheriff’s department said, a few of the demonstrators piled railroad ties onto the tracks, soaked them with gasoline and set them on fire.

An Amtrak passenger train from San Diego to Los Angeles, due at the crossing about 7: 15 p.m., was delayed while the tracks were cleared.

A sheriff’s deputy in a helicopter flying overhead declared the crowd an illegal assembly and ordered the demonstrators to disperse, the spokesman said.

Many of the demonstrators left the immediate scene but about 200 remained, he said.

The spokesman said 210 sheriff’s deputies then moved in to clear the tracks.

Sheriff’s Lt. Robert DeSteunder, 33, suffered a fractured elbow when he got entangled in a chain link fence while pursuing a demonstrator to make an arrest, the spokesman said. DeSteunder was treated and released from University Hospital.

The most serious injury among the demonstrators apparently was suffered by Donald Gustafson, of 958 Neptune Ave., Encinitas. he was treated and released at University Hospital for an arm cut suffered when a rear view mirror on a sheriff’s car was broken.

Gustafson’s brother, Ted, and a third demonstrator who sheriff’s deputies did not identify suffered minor injuries.

Those arrested were taken to county Jail and held on charges including arson, assault on a peace officer, unlawful assembly and disturbing the peace.

The Del Mar fire department extinguished the fire on the tracks and a Santa Fe railway inspector from Oceanside said little damage was done.

The railroad runs along a bluff above the beach, between the shore and Del Mar business district.