Present at the Birth:
A Free Speech Movement Journal
by Robert Hurwitt
I arrived in Berkeley on a Monday, September 14, 1964, a freshfaced young graduate
student in pursuit of a master's degree in English at UC. Actually, the freshness of face
is but a figure of speech: it was dawn and we (my co-driver was a woman named Anne who had
answered my ad for a rider in the Village Voice had just capped a trip from New
York with an all-night drive across Utah and Nevada. I had also just recovered from a bout
with mononucleosis, brought on by exhaustion after a summer spent dodging bullets, getting
jailed, running a parish-wide voter registration campaign, and generally overworking
myself as a civil rights worker in Louisiana.
It was a week before classes were to start: just time enough to register for classes,
try to find my advisor (a fruitless task by and large), and find a place to live. I ended
up with a small two-bedroom house, with a large garden, on Channing near Grove for $125 a
month plus utilities -- a figure so high that I next had to embark on a search for a
roommate (Remember this was 1964; to put things in perspective you have to realize that my
fellowship of $1800 was supposed to be sufficient to get me through the school year --
and, carefully managed, it was.)
My first glimpse of the campus was inspiring, even in the midst of registration, a
process that combined all the charming confusion of a cattle stampede with the
regimentation of a stockyard. For one thing, compared to New York University, the spacious
lawns and tall trees of UC looked like paradise. For another, there were all these tables
lined up at the entrance to the campus, stretching down the sidewalk at Bancroft and
Telegraph, each one distributing literature and recruiting members for a different
organization. Students for Goldwater and the Young Democrats held no charms for me, but I
was intrigued by the number of different socialist organizations. I picked up their
literature and debated going to their various introductory meetings. At last, I thought, I
was going to find out something about the different schools of socialist thought. The year
before, at NYU, a few of us had organized a socialist club for just such an exploratory
purpose, but we had dissolved after just one meeting to which several faculty members had
come to warn us that what seemed innocent and academic now would come back to haunt us in
later life. McCarthy was dead, but his spirit was still alive enough to scare off most of
our potential members. After NYU, Berkeley seemed fresh, alive, and open.
What I didn't know at the time was that the same day I arrived, the new freedom I had
found so attractive was already being taken away. That day Katherine Towle, dean of
students, had sent letters to the various campus political groups telling them to take
down their tables. The university had apparently just discovered that the strip of
sidewalk along Bancroft belonged to the university and not to the city -- a curiously
belated discovery given the metal plaques in the sidewalk that clearly identified the area
as university property -- and such political activity violated the political neutrality of
an institution of higher education. (No mention was made of the university's huge defense
and agribusiness and governmental consultation contracts that, of course, in no way
compromised that neutrality.)
I first became aware of this turn of events on the second day of classes, Tuesday,
September 22, when I happened across a small picket line in front of the administration
building, Sproul Hall. I'd marched in many lines, but this was one of the most
extraordinary I had ever seen. There were ultra-conservative Ayn Rand Objectivists
marching side by side with liberal Democrats and Republicans and communists and socialists
of every stripe. But this was an election year after all, and the right to distribute
literature, collect funds, and recruit members was as important to the Goldwaterites as it
was to the civil rights activists. A United Front had been formed to protest and combat
the dean's action.
This was the beginning of what became known as the Free Speech Movement. I walked that
first picket line during off-hours between classes, and I walked the line the next day,
returning that evening to join in a protest vigil. For the next several months I followed
pretty much the same pattern: going to classes, studying, writing term papers, exploring
the new-found glories of the Bay Area, and, increasingly as the semester wore on,
protesting for free speech. I also, compulsive grad student that I was, kept a detailed
and voluminous journal of the daily events. Looking back through that journal now, twenty
years later, I am amazed at how much we, all of us who were involved in the FSM,
accomplished in so little time, how crowded our days were. I am also often bored with the
self-important intellectualizing that accompanied my graduate student enthusiasms, and
even more often embarrassed by the belated adolescent self-consciousness with which I
agonized over various affairs of the heart. But through it all runs the chronology of the
FSM; starting as a trickle, growing to full flood, and finally taking over page after page
of my journal as it took over all my waking hours. There isn't room here for all of the
FSM entries in my journal the details of meetings, accounts of rumors, proselytizing among
faculty and other students, helping to write position papers, and all -- but here are a
few excerpts from my journal, highlighting some of the key events that fall of 1964, from
that first vigil to the climactic strike in December.
Wednesday, September 23, 1964: By the time I got to Sproul Hall the vigil was
already in progress and was growing rapidly. I sat in front of one of the doors where
there was enough light to study. Then word came that the board of regents was meeting with
the president [Clark Kerr] at President's House, a country estate-style stone manor house
on the north side of campus, so we formed a march to bring our protest over there --
quietly singing "Right and left together, we shall not be moved," which was
about the only set of lyrics it seemed we could all agree on -- and we marched off in a
long line. I'm not really sure just who is the real leadership of this United Front, but a
brother and sister named Art and Jackie Goldberg appear to be the main organizers.
I was made a monitor and helped organize the end of the line and start the singing in
that area. I ran up to the front of the line at one point to talk to Art Goldberg and
found that the line stretched out a long ways across campus, several hundred people at
least. We got to President's House and marched around in front for awhile while two of our
representatives went in (a socialist and a Goldwaterite) to present our grievances.
Outside the kids were getting tired of the one lyric and some tried to vary it,
substituting lyrics more traditionally associated with their own particular political
group, but we monitors kept a lid on for the sake of unity. One CORE [Congress of Racial
Equality] member began shouting freedom slogans and was surrounded by some of the monitors
who argued with him, trying to calm him down, while I helped keep the line moving. We
diverted the line and started it back to Sproul Hall. The CORE guy was hot as hell and
wanted to keep up his own one-man demonstration even after everybody else had left. Our
representatives came out. They'd only gotten to see a secretary who had promised to
present our protest to Clark Kerr in the morning.
I walked back to Sproul with the CORE guy who was saying that he didn't care if his
stand was disruptive to the United Front approach. He thought our approach was
self-defeating and involved too many compromises. I stayed at the vigil until well after
midnight, then went home to get some sleep.
Monday, September 28: I began circulating petitions for the free speech
issue this morning; got one filled in my Middle English Literature class alone. The eleven
o'clock class was cancelled so that we could attend a reception by Clark Kerr or somebody
to welcome freshmen to campus, and we put up a picket line. I didn't go to the picket
though because I had to go home to get the gas and electricity turned on. I got back to
the campus to find tables still up in the old area at Bancroft and Telegraph and new ones
set up at Sather Gate. The latest news was that our pickets had outnumbered the spectators
at the reception and that Chancellor Strong has announced that we can keep tables up in
designated areas but only for the purposes of distributing literature and advocating
voting -- not to advocate any other political activity nor to recruit members or solicit
Wednesday, September 30: After class I went back as usual to the table area to
see what was going on. The dean had come to the tables and told the students at the SNCC
table to appear for disciplinary action at 3:00 p.m. Already a list was being drawn up of
people who claimed to have sat at tables as well, or who supported such action and
demanded to be given the same treatment -- whatever it might be. I debated with myself a
bit: I only have this fellowship for one year, it's probably my last year in school, and I
really want to get that master's degree. Decided to hell with it though and signed the
small list. Immediately, of course, I began taking lists around and getting other people
to sign, too. The more of us the safer for each of us. A crowd began to gather to hear our
speakers explain what was going on, and I got a couple of lists filled out in a pretty
I had to leave for class but was back at three when a large crowd had gathered, and we
all piled into Sproul Hall with the summoned kids from the SNCC table -- all of us going
to see the dean for disciplinary action, several hundred of us marching up to the dean's
office. We sat in the hall and the demonstration had sort of spontaneously become a sit-in
which was still going on when I left for dinner.
Thursday, October 1: I spent the morning studying, then went to campus, totally
unprepared for the scene that greeted me when I arrived. There was a tremendous horde of
people in front of Sproul Hall and I could see somebody standing up in the middle of the
crowd, raised above the heads of the people, addressing them. As I got closer it turned
out that the speaker was standing on the roof of a police car and the car was completely
surrounded by a sea of seated students. I sat down and listened and asked people what was
going on. A young man [Jack Weinberg] who had been seated at a CORE table had been
arrested for refusing to show his registration card on demand (trespassing was the charge)
and the students had sat down to prevent the car from carrying him off and more students
had joined them and suddenly there was this enormous sit-in.
I listened to the speakers for a while, then went up inside Sproul where the other
sit-in was still going on, but now the students were blocking the office doors to keep the
deans from going home. I couldn't see much reason in that. Faculty members were up there
pleading with the crowd to give this tactic up and Mario Savio, who's recently become the
most visible person in the whole bit -- a very bright and very articulate philosophy
student -- Mario was running back and forth in constant negotiations. An ad hoc faculty
committee had been set up to negotiate with the administration which wouldn't negotiate
directly with us, and they advised us to lift the siege indoors for an hour and a half as
a gesture of good faith -- at least until they could make contact with a person in the
administration who was in a position to bargain. We took a vote by a show of hands of
those sitting-in, and I voted for the faculty position, as did the majority. So we marched
back outside and joined the crowd listening to the speakers on the police car. After a
while I went home to get a late dinner and go to bed.
I feel a little guilty about not sticking around for these all-night vigils, but I
don't feel that I'm really needed at this point. There's no shortage of protestors. And I
have to conserve my energy still. Dad keeps warning me about a mono relapse [I should
point out that my father was a doctor.] I feel pretty committed to this cause and more so
every time the administration pulls another of its little tricks. I'll be there when I'm
Friday, October 2: The headlines in the papers told of a riot at school in which
the cops were beaten. I hastened to campus to find out what was going on. The cop car was
still sitting there, a sea of demonstrators still sitting around it. The "riot"
had consisted of two incidents: a cop had stepped on a girl's foot and was pulled to the
ground and his boots were pulled off and then given back to him; and a large mass of
fraternity boys had come down, begun to heckle and throw eggs at the demonstrators, and
yelled about forming a wedge to get the car out, etc. Things had looked pretty ugly for a
while, apparently, until a Catholic priest from the Newman Club came over and spoke to
them for a long time, finally getting them to leave.
I took my place among the seated and listened to the speakers going at it and enjoyed
the symbolism of it all. Here we have a police car, engaged in the repression of free
speech, dispatched to arrest a person merely for advocating political activity, now
serving as a rostrum for total free speech. You just stand in line, wait your turn, and
speak your piece.
Some speakers were keeping us up to date on what's happening in the ongoing
negotiations: the ad hoc faculty committee had failed to come to any agreement with the
administration and now Clark Kerr is going to negotiate with us directly. The
administration has locked up Sproul Hall to keep our demonstration outside. Our key
bargaining position right now isn't that we have a police car trapped but that tomorrow is
Parents Weekend with a big football game, and all those parents who'll be voting on the
university bond issue (Proposition 2) will be here. The university's got to get us out.
One boy got up, crewcut, school jacket, dark glasses -- a frat boy and member of the
fraternity council -- and said he'd stood outside in the large standing circle surrounding
our larger sit-in, and heard the Greeks make fun of the grubbies and now he was inside
listening to the grubbies make fun of the Greeks. He said most of the speakers were
missing the fundamental issue, which wasn't free speech but the right to solicit funds and
recruit members, and when an organization cannot do that it's dead. The administration is
discriminating against the campus political groups, he said, and the frats should see that
it could happen to them next. Then he said he wished we'd clean up our image a bit because
we were losing middle class supporters.
Then another guy got up to announce that the reason he was a little dirty and needed a
shave was because he'd been there for two days -- and made some announcements about food
and salt pills being distributed and that a collection was being taken for them. Then the
leader of the Young Republicans got up. The rightist groups don't support these civil
disobedience tactics, he said, and went on to say that we mustn't give up the fight and
that the United Front still stands.
There were many speakers. I stood in line and as I got to the police car I could see it
was in sad shape: the roof sagging down almost to the seats, the hood buckled in, the
springs broken so that the body was practically resting on the ground. I could just see
Jack Weinberg in the darkened interior. He looked exhausted and disheveled, but he was
A guy from India, a "Gandhi Freedom Fighter," got up and said that we weren't
practicing true civil disobedience; we were protesting about punishment instead of
accepting punishment and going on being disobedient. A math major got up and announced
that the math student magazine Particle had joined the protest by setting up its
table among the others at Sather Gate and selling its magazine there. I finally reached
the head of the line and made a brief speech -- something to the effect that those who
agreed with us but hesitated to join us because of our beatnik image could change that
image if enough of them joined us. It wasn't much of a speech really and I thought I'd
made an ass of myself but I got a nice round of applause which made me feel better about
it. I stuck around until my next class. When I left a black Muslim was speaking. All
during class I could hear the rally still going on and heard singing which I recognized as
Back at the police car there were expectations that Joan Baez would come to the protest
tonight after her concert at the Greek Theater. The steady stream of speakers was
continuing. Later, when I left for dinner, I could see the husky Cal football team, all of
a size and shape, going into the dining has all dressed up. Going across Telegraph I saw
masses of cops on motorcycles coming down the street; it looked like preparations for a
mass arrest, so I rushed back and made my way through the crowd, found Art Goldberg, and
told him what was up outside. Then went off to eat.
When I got back, Mario Savio was just ascending the car top to read an agreement that
the steering committee had come to with Kerr. It called for lifting the sit-in; booking
and freeing and not bringing charges against Jack Weinberg, the boy in the car; fixing a
limit to the suspensions of eight students for manning tables (which includes Mario and
Art); and setting up a faculty-student group to consider the whole issue. Kerr himself,
Mario said, will support deeding the Bancroft-Telegraph area to the city or to the ASUC as
a free speech area. While Mario read the agreement he was being heckled by the frat boys
massed around the south rim of the protest; some threw stink bombs and lighted cigarettes
into the crowd and they kept interrupting with loud chants of Beat Minnesota. Behind them
the motorcycle cops roared down Bancroft in an intimidation move.
The sitters-in voted to accept the compromise tentatively, pending a mass rally here
Monday to reconsider.
It was, as they say, a famous victory -- but a hollow one. We held our rally the
following Monday and voted once more to accept the agreement that had ended the sit-in --
then watched that agreement unravel over the succeeding weeks. But we did more than watch:
we organized. We were now the Free Speech Movement, with an executive committee made up of
representatives from each of the political groups that opposed the university rules, and a
twelve-person steering committee elected by the executive committee. But that organization
was no longer sufficient. The vast majority of those who sat around the police car
belonged to none of the organized political groups. On October 8 a huge meeting of
unaffiliated undergraduates -- the "independents" -- elected delegates to the
executive committee. The following day, the graduate students organized, with each
department sending representatives to form a "Graduate Coordinating Committee."
I was one of the delegates from the English Graduate Association to the GCC, and the GCC
in turn elected delegates to the executive and steering committees.
The administration lost little time in showing bad faith. It unilaterally appointed
both faculty and student representatives to the joint negotiating committee, then
announced that the committee was only empowered to "study" the issue, not
resolve it. It kept its word about not bringing charges against Jack Weinberg but pointed
out that its agreement did nothing to tie the hands of the district attorney, who promptly
initiated legal action. When, on November 12, the faculty committee that had been given
jurisdiction over the cases of the eight suspended students issued its recommendations --
that six of the students be immediately reinstated and the other two, Mario Savio and Art
Goldberg, be suspended for six weeks (postdated to September 30 -- in other words, their
suspension was almost up as well) -- the administration announced that it would take no
action on their recommendation until December 8.
We had not been inactive in the interim. We had been writing position papers,
organizing in the departments, lobbying and circulating petitions among the faculty,
setting up telephone trees and mailing lists. On November 9, when the study committee's
deliberations had reached an impasse, we had begun civil disobedience again -- setting up
tables on the steps of Sproul Hall. The deans took the names of some seventy students and
hundreds more of us signed petitions stating that we were guilty of the same act.
(Curiously enough, when we manned the tables with teaching assistants, the deans stopped
taking names. It was as if the tables had become invisible.)
On November 20, when the regents were meeting in University Hall across Oxford Street
from the west entrance to the campus, we held our largest rally to date. Joan Baez sang;
speakers spoke. And then we marched, six and more abreast, from Sproul Plaza to the large
lawn across from University Hall, in a march that was still leaving the plaza when the
rest of us were already assembling on the lawn. We were allowed observers at the meeting;
they watched as Clark Kerr told the regents to ignore our proposals and those of the
academic senate, and presented his own new rules for free speech -- including limitations
on political content, and the right of prior restraint -- which the regents accepted. The
following Monday, after another large rally, about 400 of us sat-in once more in Sproul
Hall to protest. A larger number, the majority of those who had attended that day's noon
rally, did not join in the action; most were expressing dissatisfaction with Kerr's
half-free speech solution but were not willing to put their bodies on the line at this
point. Tuesday's academic senate meeting failed, by a slim vote, to endorse the FSM's
position -- that the First Amendment should be the only limitation on freedom of speech.
Thanksgiving recess was upon us. It looked to me as if, should the administration play its
cards right, the movement might just peter out.
But the administration didn't. Over the recess Chancellor Strong sent letters to Mario
Savio and Art Goldberg initiating new disciplinary action against them in connection with
the police car incident. These incidents, he claimed, were not covered by the agreement
that had ended that sit-in. When classes resumed on November 30, faculty members were
changing their minds about trusting the administration, and students were talking about
escalating our campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Tuesday, December 1: Graduate coordinating committee meeting this afternoon to
discuss the feasibility of a TA strike in the aftermath of Strong's refusal of our demands
that he drop the new disciplinary charges. I was against it at this time. I said I thought
a strike was too important a weapon to use before we had to and I didn't think the
students were prepared for it. But by the end of the meeting I'd changed my mind. The
administration's recent action does amount to a declaration of war. When for all practical
intents and purposes things were quieting down, they begin expulsion proceedings against
two students for events long past. It's too much. We voted to strike Friday if the
administration doesn't agree to drop the charges. Spent the evening studying and on the
phone with other GCC members about organizing tactics.
Wednesday, December 2: Got up tired and went off to my morning classes and then
to the noon rally. There was sure to be a sitin this time, student sympathy was running
high for it, and I was concerned, along with several others, that it be kept orderly: no
blocking doorways and halls, leave an aisle -- just a demonstration of our grievances and
not an attempt to shut things down, so that hopefully we wouldn't antagonize the faculty
now that they're swarming to our side.
A tremendous crowd in Sproul Plaza: for the first time our speakers had to stand right
in the doorway of Sproul, an American flag behind them, microphones in front of them, and
acres and acres of students, stretching clear across the plaza and on the balconies and
roof of the Student Union -- several thousand at least. I worked my way through the crowd
and picked up a monitor armband, then helped keep an aisle clear so that people could get
in and out of the building. Some cops made a move to close the doors, so I and a few
others sat against the doors, holding them open.
Charlie Powell [ASUC president] got up and made a go-home speech and got no response.
Mario gave a give-'em-hell speech, finished with a resounding condemnation of the
administration and the phrase that 'unless we're free the machine will be prevented from
working at all' -- and then he turned and, with Baez singing, led us all into the building
through blinding flashbulbs and the whirr of cameras. We monitors were running around
trying to keep the press from trampling the demonstrators, forming a human corridor for
people to pass through the lobby and upstairs. Soon the second floor was filled and we
were directing people to the third, then the fourth. Finally the crowd started filling up
the ground floor halls -- somebody said it looked just like registration. There must have
been some 1500 students inside and all quite orderly and peaceful. Baez was there too,
sitting quietly with her bearded escort amidst a constant blaze of flashbulbs.
Just before three o'clock I ran over to the bank to get some money and found myself
next to a short, bald, white-bearded, twinkly-eyed old man who called himself Mott and
said he was taking out money for possible needed bail and food for the demonstrators. Said
he thought he might join the sit-in this evening as well. Later I learned that he's an
inventor and scientist in an advisory capacity to some department here.
I went over to Wheeler Hall to ask Professor Sacks to cancel his class in favor of the
department-wide meeting we [the English Graduate Association] had called. He met his class
and called it off early. We got to the meeting to find the room overflowing with faculty
and graduate students. I pushed my way through, surprised to see Professor O'Hehir there
-- from his conservative appearance and dry, academic lectures I hadn't thought he'd take
much interest in this. I found a place to squeeze into on the podium. I never saw such a
squeeze; just about every cubic inch of room was occupied. The meeting was kind of
dragging on and on though, without even a motion on the floor. I introduced one, that the
faculty adopt the proposal that the academic senate take charge over all disciplinary
matters relating to civil liberties. The faculty present passed it overwhelmingly to take
to the next senate meeting.
We had to call an EGA meeting for 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, just before the GCC meeting, to
discuss a possible (now probable) general strike the next day. That meant a telephone
chain had to be put into action and I ended up with that job. So I had to go home and get
on the phone to call people to give them lists of more people to call, so we could notify
the whole department and the EGA delegates could vote the will of the English grad
I stopped in at Sproul Hall on the way home and took a little tour. It looked all
neatly packed and quite beautiful: people had divided into classes and study sections and
songfests and other groups. Then I went home. The phone tree took several hours to
organize, but I got it done, then read for a while and took a bath at 3:00 a.m., feeling
contented that I really didn't have to get up early tomorrow morning -- which turned out
to be truer than I thought, for I never went to bed. Stef [Stefan Grotz, president of the
EGA] called just as I got out of the tub: they've started to move cops on campus; call the
others and he'll be around to pickme up. I called Myra first [Myra Jehlen, GC delegate to
the steering committee] but she'd already heard. She said Governor Brown has given the
order for the state highway patrol to come in and arrest all the demonstrators sometime
this morning. When?
I called Sybil and a few others to activate our phone tree all over again. By then Stef
had arrived and he and I took off, picking up others on the way, and got to the campus.
Others were arriving as well.
The cops were there -- a solid line of them, police bus, paddy wagons; the whole scene
seemed greatly confused. I could see many kids at the second floor balcony. Dusty Miller,
a big, quiet guy -- politically uncommitted when this thing began -- was starting a sit-in
with a large group of students near the police buses. There was a walkie-talkie hookup to
the inside. A solid wall of cops had been set up to hide the sight of the students being
carried out of the building from those of us outside. It seems they're clearing out the
fourth floor, taking kids down the elevator and to the basement for booking and then up
the basement steps at the back south side of the building and into the bus. An ACLU lawyer
was one of the first to be busted. Mario got great cheers when he was dragged out.
For the most part we stood around feeling cold and welcoming new people as they arrived
-- faculty and students alike. I got together with several others about what to do next,
and, without really making any conscious decisions about it, we simply began the strike.
By 6:00 a.m. I had helped organize and was one of the captains of a picket line thrown up
at the entrance to the driveway where school supplies are delivered, near Harmon Gym. We
kept the line going until after eight with pretty good effect. Many of the teamsters
refused to cross our line with our hastily made signs. The kids singing "Solidarity
Forever" had some effect I guess, but more important was a longshoreman who had
joined us and would run up to each trucker as they pulled up: "You don't wanna cross
that line, buddy. You'd be embarrassed. The kids'll call you a fink and a scab. You don't
want the kids to call you a scab do you, buddy?" It wasn't until after he left that
two trucks finally crossed our line and, by then, so many of our pickets had been siphoned
off to set up other lines that we closed this one down.
By this time picket lines had gone up all over campus and a general strike had been
called, or had happened, and we were calling for it after the fact. I went back up to
Sproul to get in touch with some of the exec. comm. people who hadn't been busted and told
them we should get up a new line at Harmon Gym. Suddenly I heard a roar of disapproval
from those just outside the doors; the kids outside had seen the cops beating one of the
demonstrators inside. I heard the tinkle of broken glass and a girl came running over to
tell us what was going on. It made me sick.
I went up the steps and yelled to the kids on the second floor balcony that anyone who
had cameras or other valuables should put their names on them, lower them to me, and I'd
take them to FSM Central where they'd be safe. And I took what stuff was lowered on ropes
over there, a building a few blocks off campus. Mott was there, tending to bail matters.
And the girl who was answering the phones told me that at 8:30 a.m. the first kid had
finally been allowed his phone call. Mario and Bob Treuhaft, the ACLU lawyer, had been
held in solitary confinement for over four hours, she said.
Mott drove me back and dropped off the film from the cameras to be developed. By this
time lines were going strong all over campus, and the strike was really getting organized.
Strike Central had been set up in the history TAs' office. Professors were calling off
their classes. Henry Nash Smith had set up a bail fee fund, with Bail Central in his
office, and Professors Parkinson, Crews, and Ziff were there working on it. Smith had gone
on TV to appeal for bail money and was now down at the jail trying to get students freed
on their own recognizance.
Brian Mulloney, the quiet, red-bearded TA who has been a stalwart at GCC meetings, had
Picket Central going strong around the Wheeler Oak with poster board and magic markers and
a whole group of kids making signs. Every one of the centrals seemed to have its runners
being sent out all over campus, all organized informally; just as a need arose, it seemed
to get filled -- new leadership arising everywhere. The cops had gone after Mario and
Treuhaft right away to cut off the head of the beast and we were sprouting thousands of
new heads with every kid they busted.
There still remained all those students who weren't involved in the FSM and we had to
win over as many as we could to make the strike successful. Strikers were mounting any
prominent spot they could find, all around the plaza and at other places, becoming instant
speakers, keep ing up constant spiels of the latest news on the strike as runners would
feed it to them, haranguing the passing crowds until their voices gave out and others rose
to replace them. I stood on the bridge at Sather Gate making speeches like this for over
an hour. Many just passed by unconcerned, others would stop and listen, and sometimes
clusters would gather and arguments break out; some just took pictures of me. I kept it up
until my voice gave out and somebody came to replace me.
And after all this it wasn't even noon yet. I felt as if I'd been going nonstop for
Things looked like they were getting pretty bad at the noon rally. None of the old
exec. comm. leadership was there except Steve Weissman, and the crowd was pretty hot,
infuriated at the police brutality still going on inside. And it's hard to say [the
police] weren't purposely provoking tempers by throwing a couple of kids downstairs inside
at that time. It was difficult to control the kids, to keep them from rushing the doors,
and it was all the more difficult because the monitors, most of them inexperienced, were
shouting at the crowd. I went rushing around among the monitors, talking to them as calmly
as I could, monitoring them, helping cool things down.
Charlie Powell [the ASUC president] didn't help things either. He came out with a
speaker system much louder than ours and announced that he was holding his own rally on
the other side of the student center. A crowd of about 200, maybe 300, went off with him.
Our crowd was immense, at least 4000 people sitting down and many more that were
standing (plus a few hard-core anti-FSM demonstrators, holding signs that said "Throw
the Bums Out" -- "Anybody being beaten was getting just what he deserved,"
one told me). All these people plus almost a thousand inside or in jail and all those
others on the picket lines -- it's pretty amazing.
I went off to help establish a new line at the Eshleman Hall construction site,
appointed two line captains, then found that the Harmon line really needed people again,
so I headed for Strike Central (we need a Central Central) and got an OK to remove people
from other lines and put them at Harmon. Skip [Richheimer, a history TA and one of the
original organizers of the GCC] at Strike Central asked me to stop at the food committee
headquarters on the way and give them orders from the various lines. That I thought was
impressive. There hadn't been any food committee this morning and I had suggested to three
students who were looking for a task that they form one. Damned if they didn't.
So it went all day. Every job I undertook seemed to lead to another. I came across one
Mike Smith who had just gotten out of jail and took him around to various groups so they
could hear from inside Santa Rita. Poor guy was exhausted and very emotional. I spent much
of my time going around the picket lines, getting pickets to ignore the frat types who
were heckling them. Occasionally a volatile situation would develop when enough of the
hecklers started to pick on Picket Central. Roars of applause broke out nearby, indicating
that the faculty meeting was getting under way in Wheeler Auditorium. Some one thousand
teachers were filing in, solidly packing that monstrous auditorium -- more than they'd
ever gotten for an academic senate meeting. I went in to see what was going on. They were
embroiled in a parliamentary debate and it looked like a circus. They spent a lot of time
on an ambiguous proposal, strongly in our favor in tone but sort of hedging on details. It
passed. They resolved to put student discipline in civil liberties cases in the faculty's
hands. They loudly applauded a report calling for Strong's resignation.
It's not Strong really, of course -- that's like firing a secretary for the boss's
mistakes. The responsibility lies not only higher up but with the system itself.
Then we held our EGA meeting, the one we had been phoning about last night so long ago.
Over 130 English grads and TAs crowded into the small room we'd reserved and voted to
support the strike; only five opposed.
Then on to the GCC meeting and about dead on my feet. Here the first grad to get out of
jail reported on the arrests, etc., a boy from psychology, and he spoke well. The meeting
filled the big lecture hall in the Life Sciences Building and support for the strike was
pretty well unanimous. The meeting seemed to me to go on far too long but it was all
necessary work: setting up committees for tomorrow, reports on our strength in the various
departments (excellent through out the humanities and social sciences, almost nonexistent
in the physical sciences, except math and engineering). Henry May, chairman of the history
department, had asked his teachers not to teach tomorrow, and the economics department had
closed down. Things looked very good overall.
Exhausted, I went home and crawled into a hot tub, thinking a whole day has gone by and
here I am right where I was before. Then went to bed for the first time in 38 hours.
Friday, December 4: Woke with a start, worrying about how the strike's going --
how many others like myself were so pooped from yesterday that they weren't back there
making it work? I ran most of the eight blocks back to campus. The line at Harmon was
going strong, but the line captain told me that most of the teamsters weren't honoring it
today. We took them by surprise yesterday, but now they'd had time to get instructions
from their union.
I headed for Wheeler Oak where Brian Mulloney was still running Picket Central,
standing there sending out pickets as needed by megaphone, a technical advancement over
yesterday. The lines at all the buildings I'd passed looked pretty good.
I helped out at Picket Central until time for my first class, then went off to picket
my own classes. Professor Whitehead crossed the line, saying he'd decided to meet his
classes but only to discuss FSM. I told him about the Free University classes being set up
at rooms in the religious centers. O'Hehir didn't meet his class, though some fifty of the
huge lecture class did attend. He was too busy helping drive arrested students back from
Santa Rita. I went back to Picket Central and told Brian that the lines at Morgan Hall and
agriculture needed beefing up.
I only attended the noon rally long enough to make an announcement about which sites
needed more pickets. Then rushed over to Bancroft and Telegraph where an argument had
broken out between the pickets and hecklers. They'd set up their own table with a petition
of support for Clark Kerr and one was carrying a sign that said "Pray for
Sharks" -- he said he felt our slogans were irrelevant and he wanted to lampoon that,
but I think his sign was more relevant to his own politics than he realized.
I was asked to organize a picket line at Latimer Hall construction site and brought a
group of people up there. On my way back, I stopped to have food sent up to the lines on
the east side of campus. Then the Freddies [the unsympathetic frat boys] began harassing
Picket Central again, quite a few more of them than yesterday. Brian and I moved
operations to the more sheltered side of the tree, which alleviated matters. A delegation
of three hundred students from San Francisco State arrived and Brian and I dispatched them
to various sites around campus. Everything was going beautifully. We even had a whole
corps of runners -- many on bicycles, one with a motorscooter -- and could keep up a
running survey of all the lines. Profs were sending in announcements to us: midterms
cancelled, makeups for tests missed scheduled for after the strike, classes cancelled,
statements of support. The strike looked overwhelmingly effective in all but the physical
sciences and engineering.
At 4:00 p.m. I headed for the GCC meeting in the same room in LSB as yesterday, which
turned out to be a mistake. The professor whose class was scheduled turned out not to be
honoring the strike, so we had to move. I ran over to Dwinelle, found the big auditorium
there was vacant, and ran back and told Steve Weissman and we moved the meeting over
there. Another hell of a big meeting. We voted to carry on the strike at least until
Tuesday at noon.
We had to. If not, Kerr can just say we haven't the strength to hold out, that
we'd just ridden a wave of reaction to the police action. If we can demonstrate our
strength successfully on Monday, after a weekend, we're in a stronger position than
before. If not, we're probably sunk.
A roll call of our strength showed it even better than yesterday. The newspapers today
were calling our strike a failure (and the Daily Cal came out with another of its
dumb editorials against us). We know it's not, but it looks like we have to prove it. Or
can they make it a failure just by saying so?
I spent most of the weekend on the phone and at meetings: rounding up speakers to go
around the dorms and other living areas to explain the strike, drawing up a leaflet about
classrooms available through the Free University, getting the news on the latest
developments, drawing up instructions for picket captains. Saturday we heard the results
of the alumni association meeting: the alumni had thrown out our representative, Mike
Miller, and had voted that, 1) the arrested students should be expelled, 2) the TAs on
strike should be fired, and 3) all faculty sympathetic to the FSM should be fired.
Kerr had also been active. The university had cancelled all classes between nine and
noon on Monday. Instead we were all to assemble in departmental meetings at nine -- to be
followed by a university-wide meeting in the Greek Theater. The word was that Kerr would
announce the resignation of Strong (who conveniently had just gone into the hospital) and
appoint Professor Scalapino, head of the political science department, a much smoother and
Scalapino was to announce a new solution to the FSM problem, one that had come out of a
general meeting of departmental chairmen. He would propose a general amnesty on
disciplinary action (which has no effect on whatever action the DA takes against those
busted), and would ask the academic freedom committee of the academic senate to establish
free speech rules (which sounded fine except that the committee's findings will still only
be a recommendation to the administration, not binding).
Monday, December 7: Overslept. Somehow the alarm didn't wake me and it was
already eight o'clock. I hit the floor running, no time to eat, and dashed to campus. I
missed most of the GCC meeting but made it to the English departmental meeting in a large
lecture hall, rapidly filling up with grads and faculty, and got briefed by Stef on the
GCC response to the departmental chairmen's solution.
Mark Schorer called the meeting to order, speaking in mild, almost disinterested tones.
He told us how the chairmen had drafted this "solution" under Scalapino's
direction and, almost apologetically, read the proposal to us. It was just what we'd
expected and it got a chilly reception. Almost every speaker objected to it, at least to
some of its phrasing (this is the English department, after all), and just about all
objected to its lack of anything binding on the administration. Finally Shorer gazed out
over the crowd and said mildly, does anybody here actually approve of this document?
Nobody did. In the end we passed a "sense of the meeting" motion of the faculty
and students here assembled that the academic senate, meeting tomorrow, should approve
another set of proposals -- known as the Kornhauser Proposals -- which had been presented
at the last academic senate meeting.
Then we filed on up to the Greek Theater, joining larger and larger streams of humanity
until we formed a river pouring into that concrete dam. The place was filled to
overflowing. On the way up I talked with people from other departments. Some of the
so-called Students for Law and Order had threatened a professor (Sampson of psychology)
with physical violence if he spoke at our rally today. The political science department
meeting was run by Scalapino, who simply told them what he was doing and that was that.
Steve Weissman told me that he and Mario were trying to get permission to announce the FSM
rally at the end of this meeting. If they couldn't get permission they would walk towards
the stage and force Scalapino to make that decision publicly.
The departmental chairmen took their seats on stage. Kerr came out, a small balding
man, and received wild applause from a very small section of the audience. Scalapino
welcomed us and read the departmental chairmen's (his) proposal to loud cheers from the
same small group and a loud chorus of boos from most of the audience. Then he spoke, just
meaningless cliches piled on top of one another. And then Kerr spoke, with better style
but no less cliche-ridden. They kept condemning our actions to the same small group of
cheers and loud chorus of boos.
And then Scalapino said the meeting was adjourned. Mario got up on the stage and
approached the microphone and was immediately grabbed by two cops and dragged out, with
two more helping, one pulling him by his necktie. An uproar: students started chanting,
"We want Mario and Free Speech, Free Speech." Art Goldberg and Bettina Aptheker
tried to quiet the crowd, though the mike had been shut off, yelling at us to go to the
Sproul steps for our rally and turning to tell Kerr to let Mario go.
It was a pretty stupid move on the administration's part. They could easily have just
let Mario speak, or if they'd been really smart, they would've just announced the FSM
rally for us and taken the wind from our sails. As it was Scalapino had to come back to
say he'd already told Mario he couldn't speak; the chairmen wouldn't try to disrupt an FSM
rally, etc. Then he backed down and let Mario speak. Mario said he just wanted to announce
that we were having a rally and he invited the chairmen to attend.
So those masses of humanity swarmed back across the campus to Sproul Hall. By the time
I got there, there were already several thousand people before me and the rally had
already started. Charlie Powell and the Law and Order boys were having a little rally of
their own, a couple hundred, in the lower plaza. And a departmental chairman
<I>did</I> speak at our rally, though I didn't catch most of what he said. The
rally didn't last long. We announced our rejection of the Scalapino solution and said we'd
continue the strike through today and call a moratorium until after the faculty meeting
I went back to Picket Central. Brian wasn't there; he'd collapsed from exhaustion this
morning. I took over, along with a guy named Benson Brown, dispatching pickets to all the
needed places, concentrating on the academic buildings. Spent the whole afternoon at it,
announcing all the meetings that were taking place, etc., standing at the oak with a
bullhorn. At 3:30 p.m., I began taking down some of the lines, then most of them, to beef
up the one at Bancroft and Telegraph. Art Goldberg was pretty upset at me for doing this,
but I explained that most of the classes were over for the day and that people had to be
freed from picket duty so they could get to their meetings.
At the GCC meeting we passed a resolution urging the faculty to adopt the Kornhauser
Tuesday, December 8: I actually slept in for once; not much really, but it felt
so unusual to wake up feeling rested. Brian called and recruited me to act as a monitor
outside Wheeler Auditorium during the faculty meeting, to help keep order. He was trying
to see if he could get speakers set up outside so that the students could hear the
The campus looked remarkably quiet -- no rallies, no pickets, no nothing -- only the
Students for Cal collecting signatures around Wheeler Oak and distributing their "FSM
will die" leaflets. Big husky guys with short blond crew cuts most of them, looking
vaguely like apes but less intelligent.
Students began collecting outside Wheeler by 2:30 p.m. I took my station and began
clearing aisles for the faculty to pass through; there seemed to be no end to the faculty
marching in there. Saw quite a few that I recognized and wished them well. The meetings
began and resounded out over the campus from the loudspeakers, echoing off the buildings.
Several thousand students were gathered in front of the hall, mostly silent, listening to
every word, sitting on the steps, and extending in a crowd from Moses Hall to Dwinelle.
Everybody was restrained, quiet even during the most inflammatory speeches from the other
Our allies had handled their staging very skillfully. The first committee scheduled to
report yielded to the academic freedom committee and their chairman got up and read their
report, which just happened to be our old friend, the Kornhauser Proposals -- which we had
dittoed up in the English department this morning and had passed out to all academic
senate members and to the crowd massed outside. There were five points: 1) amnesty right
up to date for all students' acts connected with the FSM; 2) reasonable regulation of
political activity (traffic control, essentially, not content); 3) no university
regulation of off-campus activities, 4) all future disciplinary measures in the area of
free speech to be decided by an academic senate committee; 5) committing the academic
senate to work to see that these proposals are carried through.
The proposal was seconded and then one Feuer got up and offered a sort of
"gag" amendment, which would limit free speech to advocating "lawful"
activity only (his supporters were saying this was needed to prevent fascists, for
example, from staging hate raids and using the campus as a sanctuary, which seems pretty
farfetched; the campus hardly seems like a sanctuary these days). Quite a few people spoke
for our side and the final vote on the amendment was 284 yes, 747 no -- a very good
indication of how the main proposal would fare. The crowd cheered outside.
Then came the debate on the main motion and it dragged on and on. Our speakers were
excellent and finally a motion to close debate was brought and passed -- 812 yes, 141 no
-- and this brought the main motion to the floor after over two hours of debate. The vote:
824 yes, 115 no.
God, what cheering we raised. We were ecstatic. And we opened a wide aisle through our
ranks, but only a few faculty members came out, members of the [Lewis] Feuer faction, and
some ribbon-plastered ROTC instructors. Our forces were fighting for yet another motion:
to create an executive committee of the academic senate to carry their proposal to the
regents' door. Another hour passed before that motion carried. It was getting on toward
6:30 p.m. and cold; most of the crowd had dwindled away in the last hour. Yet there were
still a good several hundred of us outside and an aisle had to be forced through the
crowd. And we were applauding, applauding like crazy. I stood there shaking hands with the
professors I knew and applauding and we kept applauding until every last professor had
left that room.
The steering committee was dancing around the fountain in Sproul Plaza; GCC members
were singing "We Shall Overcome." And the night turned into a succession of
parties, a blur of champagne and dancing and wine and more dancing and talking and beer
and romance until I was woozily negotiating somebody's VW down the streets at six the next
morning and somehow woke up later that day in my own bed with a massive hangover.
We felt like the faculty had taken an enormous weight off our shoulders, and to a
certain extent it had, but only partly. There was still a long road ahead. First there was
the trial; then there was the continuing struggle against erosion of the liberty we had
won. The new year began with a new chancellor at Berkeley announcing new free speech rules
that pretty well satisfied the demands we had raised at the beginning of the FSM, but many
of us had now gone well beyond that.Some were involved in trying to reform the student
government, so that graduate students would have representation; others engaged in
organizing a TAs' union and in much more far-reaching campaigns for educational reform,
challenging the entire notion of hierarchical and authoritarian learning structures. Many
were moving into other political spheres, galvanized by the research we had done on our
university and the incredible interlocking network of agribusiness, defense, and other
interests we had uncovered in the portfolios of the regents.
Later that spring a group announced that it was holding a massive teach-in on the war
in Vietnam, Vietnam Day. The administration announced that the group needed a permit for
such a gathering and the Vietnam Day Committee responded that they would hold their
three-day, round-the-clock, teach-in permit or no permit. Scarcely anybody noticed when
the administration announced that they were granting the VDC a permit. After what we had
just been through, "official permission" seemed like part of some other world,
some other time.
I did get my master's degree that spring as well, though I can't say that I've ever had
much use for it. The following fall, after a VDC rally on campus, the university sent
letters to three ex-students, Jack Weinberg, Jerry Rubin, and myself, informing us that if
we ever reapplied to UC we would have to face disciplinary proceedings and that a note to
that effect was being appended to our academic transcripts.We were, in effect, being
blacklisted. Oh, we had won the battle all right, and pretty gloriously at that, but the
skirmishes will go on for the rest of our lives.
Originally published in [East Bay] Express, Vol. 6, no. 50, Sept.28, 1984.
Copyright by Robert Hurwitt, 1984, 1998.