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The FSM: An Historical Narrative

By Bettina Aptheker

Published originally with an interpretive essay by Robert Kaufman and Michael Folsom in FSM: The Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, by the W.E. B. DuBois Clubs of America, 1965.


(The following story is true. All resemblance to persons living and events lived is purely intentional. Only the names have been unchanged to detect the guilty and praise the courageous.)

DATE: SEPTEMBER 14, 1964, first day of Fall Semester.

PLACE: The center of the world, the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph, Berkeley, California.

Actually it's the edge where two worlds meet. It's a wide piece of sidewalk, red brick. Across the street is Berkeley, the city, society, the "real" world. On the other side of the brick plaza is a row of concrete pillars; behind that, the world of the University of California. Back and forth across this sidewalk each day many of this campus' 27, 000 students amble from one world to the other. At noon, there's always a rush, and the two worlds blend in a roiling river of people.

The red brick sidewalk has been the traditional spot where student political and social action organizations set up their tables to advocate off-campus action, to solicit funds, and to recruit members. Sometimes an impromptu rally is held here, Here we harangue and cajole and argue.

On that first day of semester Dean of Students, Katherine Towle, issued a series of prohibitions. On campus property we could no longer advocate offcampus political and social action, we could not take partisan views in the election, we could not solicit funds or recruit members. The Dean announced that the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft was really University Property; hence the prohibitions applied to our traditional free speech arena.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 - WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

The ruling came down shortly before the climax of the 1964 electoral campaign, and the response of the student organizations was heightened by this fact. Immediately, representatives of some 18 organizations on the campus went to see Mrs. Towle, to seek a redress of grievances. These included groups of the Right, the Left and the Center-- Students for Goldwater and the Young Republicans, Young Socialist Alliance and the W. E. B. DuBois Club, Students for Fair Housing and Students for a Democratic Society CORE and SNCC.

We met with the Dean and all the little deans; with the Chancellor and all the little Chancellors, and finally were granted a few concessions. By September 30 we won the right to set up tables in nine areas on the campus. When we pointed out that members of the University community had taken a partisan view in the election concerning the passage of Proposition 2 (bonds for the University), we won the right to take partisan views in the election. However, we were still prohibited from advocating off-campus political and social action, and soliciting funds and members. We were permitted to hand out informational material.

The early forms of protest against the new regulations were varied. The tactics had to be ones which all groups could use, whether they were of the Left or the Right. We realized from the start that the only way we could defeat administrative rulings was to form a solid coalition of all the groups on the campus, and eliminate, as much as possible, "sectarian politics " It is a great tribute to this student movement that we successfully maintained a coalition. {We lost only one group when we began civil disobedience after October 2 -- the University Society of Individualists.) We used those tactics which would be most effective and involve the largest number of people. When one approach did not work too well, we tried another.

There was one all night vigil on the steps of Sproul Hall. Only about 100 people participated. This was followed by a huge noon rally under a giant oak tree, situated between two of the largest academic buildings. The rally culminated in a picket line through the lower student union plaza (opposite Sproul Hall) where Chancellor Strong was addressing a University meeting. A thousand people marched.

It was clear that large numbers of students were concerned about political freedom on the campus--many students who never had and probably never would want to set up a table or advocate off-campus political and social action were participating in the protest. Shortly after the picket-line demonstration, the Associated Student Senate (ASUC) passed a resolution supporting the rights of the students. Some five thousand students signed the ASUC petition. The organizations continued to set up their tables in violation of University regulations, not only at Bancroft and Telegraph, but at other areas on the campus, including in front of Spro1 Hall.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

The Deans came out. They took the names of eight students sitting at tables belonging to SNCC, SLATE, and YSA. The eight were ordered to appear at the Deans' Office at 3:30 pm, presumably to face disciplinary action. When the deans had departed we circulated a "Petition of Complicity." There were hundreds of other students who considered themselves in violation of University Regulations but the deans only took eight names. Determined that all violators should be punished equally, 450 people signed the "Petition of Complicity" and all were at the Deans' Office at 3:30 pm sharp! The first sit-in within the sanctimonious halls of Sproul had begun. At 7:00 pm Chancellor Strong ordered the doors of Sproul Hall locked. Campus police were stationed at all the exits. We were permitted to leave the building, but none could enter.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1

At 2:00 pm Chancellor Strong issued a statement. He condemned the sit-in, called for law and order on the campus, accused SLATE of conspiring to destroy the Chancellor, and finally placed the eight students under "indefinite suspension." Stunned and shocked by the Chancellor's ruling, we left Sproul Hall at 3:00 am, resolving to set up our tables at 11:00 am.

Again let it be emphasized that students who participated in the sit-in and who sat at tables were from every conceivable section of the political spectrum. The tactic of civil disobedience and, in particular, the sit-in was considered from that time on as a legitimate and important tactic of a student protest movement on the campus. Moreover, the tactics of the movement were spontaneous. We had no real leadership at this time, with the exception of Mario Savio, who was recognized by all as the student protest spokesman.

At 11:45 am on Thursday, October 1, four campus police drove into the center of the Sproul Hall Plaza. They got out and approached Jack Weinberg at the Campus CORE table. He refused to identify himself, but stipulated that his name could be found on the "Petition of Complicity." (This tactic was used to force the authorities to move against all, and not against a few.) Jack was placed under arrest. He went limp. He was carried to the police car, and placed inside. The plaza was flooded with people. Not everyone could see what had happened, but the presence of the police and the tables were evidence enough of a clash.

As Jack was placed in the car a cry went up. SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! And hundreds did sit down. Around the car, and under the wheels we sat. And Mario carefully removed his shoes, and gingerly climbed atop the car and began to speak. Scores of students followed him. The roof of the car sagged as speaker after speaker urged their fellow students to remain, to hold firm until our demands were met. We called upon the University to (1) drop all charges against the eight suspended students, (2) drop charges against Jack, (3) change the University regulations to allow for maximum political freedom on the campus.

A book could be written about the many hours around the car. There were times when we were discouraged and believed that other things would have to be done before the administration would meet our demands. It was cold at night and hot during the day. We were brought food, and there was a committee of students to make sandwiches and bring things to the demonstrators. Sleeping bags and blankets appeared. We contacted friends on other campuses, particularly within the state, and asked them to hold sympathy demonstrations, raise money, give whatever support they could. Can we ever forget the blazing sunset over the Bay, visible from the Sproul Hall steps, the passionate cheers when it was announced that demonstrations were being called at UCLA and Stanford, the inexpressible joy when adults in the community gave us money and food? And around the car we read books, discussed anything and everything. We sang songs, made speeches, told jokes, read the newspaper stories about ourselves. Time was long, and the end came slowly. . . .

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2

At 2:00 am 200 freddies (fraternity "men") arrived on the scene. Our numbers had thinned considerably, but with the new danger students returned to the car. We were about 400-500 strong. The freddies amused themselves by shouting obscenities and hurling lighted cigarettes and eggs into the crowd. It was an ugly situation. We shouted back, but remained seated. The police did nothing to calm the situation. As things tensed, Father Fisher (of the Newman Club) mounted the car and spoke. He pleaded with the freddies to leave. He spoke of brotherhood, of peace. A hush fell over the crowd. Father Fisher stepped down. The freddies began again, but this time we did not respond. Slowly they and their catcalls receded into the night.

In the beginning the administration refused to meet with us, insisting that we disband the illegal demonstration. But, as Friday noon rolled around, it became clear that the students could hold out another twenty-four hours. That was crucial. Saturday was Parents' Day and the campus was to be open to the general public. It was imperative that Clark Kerr, President of the University, end the disorders before Saturday morning.

At 5:00 pm those of us at the car received our first reports that large numbers of police were being massed on the campus. Meanwhile, President Kerr had begun negotiations with students, again including representatives from the entire political spectrum. Over 700 police, armed with tear gas and clubs, were assembled on the campus when negotiations began. The students were told that if the agreement wasn't signed within ten minutes the police would be used. President Kerr was on the phone with Governor Brown in another room. Faculty members were in a third room trying to work out some sort of agreement.

At the car we organized ourselves in preparation for the police onslaught. We packed closely around the car. Monitors formed a protective chain standing with arms linked on the periphery of the seated demonstrators. As we sang "Which side are you on" hundreds more sat down with us until well over 500 were seated. Thousands more were standing about, most in sympathy. Police informed anyone who entered Sproul Hall Plaza that they would be subject to arrest. We waited . . .; we were tense.

A few minutes before 7:00 pm the Pact of October Second was signed. Text of the Pact is in Appendix A. A little after 7:00, Mario, for the last time, climbed atop our podium. In the TV floodlights we could see his weariness. Absolute silence. In lock-step words which combined dead exhaustion and frantic determination to be so clear and forceful as to admit no contradiction, Mario told us of the agreement he had signed with grave reservations. Police motorcycles -- it sounded like a thousand of them -- thundered off down Telegraph Avenue. Slowly the plaza was vacated.

At 8:00 pm, l0,000 students, many of whom had been at the car for two days, were jammed inside the open-air Greek Theater to hear Joan Baez sing. It was a clear night, and from the stage came a clear voice: "The students won, and I'm glad." Joan sang "Oh freedom . . Oh freedom . . ." We sang with her -- as we had never sung before.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3 - TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13

From Saturday morning, October third, until Monday morning, October fifth, representatives from the student organizations met, and out of a nightmare of meetings was formed the Free Speech Movement. There were two representatives from every organization, which resulted in a thirty-six member Executive Committee. From this body was elected a smaller one, known as the Steering Committee, the function of which was to carry out the day-to-day leadership of the movement. The Executive Committee was constituted to make policy for the FSM. The following week the graduate students formed the Graduate Co-ordinating Committee (GCC) which was eventually given seven votes on the Executive Committee; because it represented hundreds of graduate students, teaching assistants, research assistants, etc. Monday night, October 5, the Independent Student Association was formed. This Association involved some 700 students who were not members of any political organization on the campus, but who were committed to the fight for free speech. The Independents were also given seven seats on the Executive Committee. The FSM continued to grow. The Hillel Foundation and other religious groups of students were given seats on the Executive Committee. A group of eighty students worked together for two weeks putting out a I00, 000 word report on Repression at Berkeley: 1958-1964 - which became known as the Rossman Report, named after its editor. Because its work was so integral to the FSM the Rossman Report Committee received representation on the Executive Committee. We were soon functioning with a 56-man Executive Committee, and an l l-man Steering Committee .

For ten days we set about establishing the FSM as an organization and sought to deal with the administration to insure proper and fair implementation of the Pact of October Second. The huge task of organizing the campus began. We set up an FSM Central, which was soon operating with three phones, manned 24 hours a day. All information was sent to this office. A Press Central was established to handle press conferences and releases that were constantly needed. Students majoring in journalism, and/or working part-time for commercial papers undertook the operation of this Central. There was a Work Central where posters, leaflets, etc., were turned out One of the organizations had an off-set press, and their headquarters became Newsletter Central. We published as often as possible an FSM newsletter to keep the students posted on all developments,

FSM tables were set up daily and continuously manned. We set them up on city property, so as not to conflict with University regulations during our self-declared moratorium on political activity. Rallies were held almost every day to keep the students informed of events, At the tables money was raised (in three days we took in contributions totaling well over $700), and FSM literature was available. We sold 4,500 FSM buttons, and we had to reorder more again and again.

Our dealings with the administration were not so productive. The day the Pact was signed and for days following, President Kerr red-baited us. He claimed that we were being influenced by outsiders, and stated that 49% of the demonstrators around the car were communists or communist-sympathizers and outside agitators. The attack was greeted with contempt and ridicule by the students. It served only to increase our unity. Red-baiting was not an effective weapon; it did not split the FSM. For a long period after that the administration used other methods of attack, but dropped red-baiting.

During this period, the Steering Committee made repeated attempts to see either Chancellor Strong or President Kerr to work out the interpretation of the Pact of October Second. Rather than meet with us, they sent us from one dean to another and from one vice-chancellor to another. On October sixth the Chancellor unilaterally established his study committee. He selected the four administrators, four faculty members, and two students. He then informed the FSM that if we wanted to, we were welcome to send two of our representatives to the committee. On the same day we were informed that there was no such thing as a Committee on Student Conduct of the Academic Senate to adjudicate the cases of the eight suspended students (a slight error the administration overlooked when we signed the Pact). Instead, the Chancellor had submitted the cases to the Faculty Student Conduct Committee he had appointed. On both points we protested vigorously, and we were finally granted an "audience" with the Chancellor. That meeting proved to be of little value in solving the controversy over the agreement. President Kerr refused to meet with us.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13

The Chancellor's study committee held its first public hearing. We mobilized FSMers to go to that hearing and testify. The publicity for the meeting was campus-wide, but only those students vitally interested in the free speech controversy showed up. Five hundred students attended the public hearing. Forty-five students spoke, and forty-five students stated in their own words that the committee was illegally constituted; that there were two parties to the dispute, and the committee should disband or be reconstituted with the four faculty members selected by the Academic Senate, with the four students elected by the executive committee of the FSM.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 14

On this day we gave the administration 48 hours to meet with us and work out a fair and equitable implementation of the agreement. We informed the administration that massive student demonstrations would begin Friday at noon if there was no change. The campus grew tense in the days that followed.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15

By l0:00 pm the Steering Committee had completed the plans for the demonstration the following day.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16

At 2:00 am the administration sent a professor of industrial relations to meet with the Steering Committee and attempt to work out a solution. By 3:30 pm Friday afternoon the Chancellor had agreed to reconstitute the Committee on Campus Political Activity in accordance with our demands, and he agreed to submit the cases of the eight suspended students to an ad hoc committee of the Academic Senate (which became known as the Heyman Committee). By 5:00 pm the FSM Executive Committee had approved the implementation of the Pact.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17 - SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7

Now we faced the colossal task of keeping the movement alive, with every day bringing mid-terms closer. At the same time we sought to negotiate in the Committee on Campus Political Activity and secure our rights. It was during this period that the FSM suffered its first isolation from the general campus community. As the committee dragged on, we realized that it was a stalling committee and would never afford us the opportunity to secure our freedom. The faculty members of the committee insisted upon playing a mediating role in the dispute although they affirmed that, intellectually; they supported our goals, and that, constitutionally, we were right. The students on the campus were convinced that the committee would do its job and do it well. Those of us on the committee, and many of the hundreds who at one time or another attended committee meetings, gradually became convinced that we were moving away from solution and at the same time losing the interests of the vast majority of the students on the campus.

We knew that the main issue before the committee was the question of advocacy. Shortly after the committee convened we made a formal motion that the committee recommend to the Chancellor that the ban on political activity be lifted and that the students be allowed to return to the situation that existed before September 14. The election campaign was in full swing. Among other things the campaign against Proposition 14 (which sought to allow discrimination in housing) had been severely hurt by the ban. The committee refused to make such a recommendation.

Many of us understood clearly that it was no accident that the central question before the committee was advocacy. It was no accident that the ban on political activity came after months of intensive civil rights activity in the Bay Area. Advocating and initiating political action from the campus was the central issue.

The FSM position was that students had the right to advocate freely on the campus without being subject to University discipline. We insisted that if we abused our First Amendment's rights of speech, the courts and only the courts could provide due process and try us for violation of law. The only rationale the administrators gave for wanting the right to regulate the content of speech (and they clearly stated their reasons) was their desire to have the power to respond to outside political pressure, and to discipline a student or students, when their advocacy resulted in acts in the community. This was the central issue. The stakes were high, for the students and for the University. This was the issue over which we battled for four months.

The faculty members of the Committee on Campus Political Activity wrote a package deal which included our position on advocacy. They tried to get the administration to accept the whole package. The administration representatives, as we knew they would, introduced a substitute motion which insisted that only "lawful" acts could be advocated on the campus, and the University would determine what was lawful advocacy. On Saturday, November 7, the committee deadlocked.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8

The first major split in the FSM developed at this point. In the weeks while the committee met the students had lost a certain amount of trust in the FSM leadership, and we had become isolated from the vast majority of the students on the campus. The reasons for this isolation were manifold, but primarily it resulted in our inability to talk to the students and logically to explain why the committee had failed. Many students felt that the FSM had deliberately sabotaged the workings of the committee, and this view was upheld by the faculty members of the committee who denounced both the students and the administration after their package deal was destroyed.

The main leadership of the FSM wanted to resume demonstrations on Monday, November 9. The debate raged all day Sunday. The demonstrations were to consist of setting up tables which violated University regulations. We knew it meant that more students would be suspended or at least face some sort of disciplinary action. We also knew that much of our support had dwindled away. The central question was whether we could pull the movement together through demonstrations or watch it die in committee. We resolved that we had no choice but to risk the resumption of demonstrations, hoping that support would return and that the issues would once again become clear.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9

Our tables went up. Shortly after the noon hour the Deans came out of Sproul Hall and made the rounds getting the names of students sitting at "illegal" tables. Seventy-five students were cited for sitting at such tables. Eight hundred thirty-two people then signed a "Petition of Complicity" and brought it up to the office of the Dean of Students.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10

Support was returning. Two hundred teaching assistants and graduate students manned tables beginning at noon. The Deans refused to cite the graduate students. However, the grads, determined to be cited, marched up the great marble steps of Sproul, led ceremoniously by the American flag, and delivered their names to the Deans.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER l1 - THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19

The participation of the grads had a profound effect on the campus community. The students were once again behind the FSM. Tables were set up every day. We violated every regulation which violated our constitutional rights and/or was an unnecessary harrassment.

We prepared ourselves for the confrontation with the administration at the Board of Regents meeting scheduled for Friday, November 20, in Berkeley.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20

The FSM demonstration was carried out in the spirit and with the dignity of the March on Washington. The steps of SprouI Hall, bathed by a warm sun, served as speaker's podium. Joan Baez sang -- students coming out of classes heard her voice and couldn't believe that it was Joan actually at our rally. Six professors from Mathematics, English, and Philosophy spoke, expressing the sentiments of well over 200 faculty members. There were telegrams from State Assemblymen, greetings from the President of the State Federation of Young Democrats, resolutions from Democratic councils. Five thousand strong, we marched slowly through the campus. We stopped all traffic, and turned one-way streets into two-way streets, so as not to hinder our line of march. We crossed Oxford Street, passed in front of University Hall, and then sat down on a grassy knoll across the street from University Hall. We awaited the decision from those who governed.

The FSM delegation was seated in the Regents meeting, although we were not permitted to speak even for a few minutes. President Kerr addressed the Board. The resolutions to govern the University were read, seconded and voted upon without discussion. The eight suspended students were to be immediately reinstated, but two of them were to be reinstated on probation because they had led and organized the demonstrations. The other six were to be considered to have been in six weeks suspension and were to be reinstated. The Heyman Committee, on the other hand, had recommended that the two students be reinstated without probation, and that the records of the other six indicate censure, but not suspension. The Regents ruled that the campus police were to be built up to deal with student demonstrations. The Regents ruled that the administrative staff was to be expanded to deal with all the disciplinary cases then pending. The Regents ruled that two or three areas on the campus (specifically those least frequented by students) would be considered "Hyde Park" areas where tables could be set up to solicit funds, recruit members, or advocate. But the University reserved the right to determine the legality of that advocacy, and reserved the right to take action against any student or organization, at any time.

Five-thousand students sat in stunned silence as the decision of the Regents was read. And then there was indignation and anger: "We have no voices. We were not heard. We were not seen. " Joan spoke to cheer us: "Your voices have never been louder. You are being heard all across the country. " Quietly we rose and sang. We shall overcome. . . we shall overcome. . . some day. . .

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21 - WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25

The Regents' meeting left us frustrated and filled with despair. A debate raged in the FSM over the weekend about what our response should be on Monday. Some wanted to sit in Spro1 Hall; others felt that the best course was to wait and to continue to exercise our rights, allowing the administration time to make its next move. The movement was split once again, and this time publicly. The debate continued during the noon rally on Monday. After the rally, 300 people went inside Sproul Hall. We were told that the doors would be locked at 7:00 pm and we should be ordered to leave. If we did not, "appropriate action" would be taken. The leadership for the first time found itself unable to lead. We were split wide open. Some advocated that we leave by 5:00 pm, others insisted that we stay until arrested. The decision was finally made to leave. After what seemed an endless agony, but in reality was only two hours of argument, Sproul Hall was vacated.

The conflict over tactics in the leadership seriously damaged the unity of the movement. The sit-in at that time was an act of despair, an act of frustration with no immediate goals. When it ended we went back to exercising our rights on the campus. There was widespread talk of a teaching assistant-student strike. We waited for the administration to make its move .

THANKSGIVING

The administration seriously overestimated the nature of the split in the FSM, and once again did not recognize that the goals of the FSM had more support. The students sympathized with the leadership's frustration. There was widespread criticism of Monday's sit-in, but the FSM was not isolated.

Over the holiday Chancellor Strong once again sent out letters. This time to four members of the FSM. He charged them with leading, organizing, and abetting the illegal demonstrations on October 1 and 2. A number of organizations which had participated in the FSM, including the DuBois Club, were also charged with violating campus regulations.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30

At a noon rally we announced that the letters had been received. The campus community was shocked by the Chancellor's action. It had generally been assumed that those events were officially forgotten. Once again support for the FSM grew. We demanded that the charges against the four be dropped, that charges against organizations be dropped. We demanded once again, that there be a maximization of political freedom on the campus.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1

At a noon rally we made our demands an ultimatum. We told the administration that we would bring the University to a "grinding halt" at noon on Wednesday unless our demands were met. Since the previous Sunday, we had phoned the administration frequently; we continued to phone. We tried to meet with them. Everyone from President Kerr on down in the hierarchy refused to meet with us.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2

"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you cannot take part; you cannot even tacitly take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the wheels, and the gears and all the apparatus, and you have to make it stop. And you have to make it clear to the people who own it, and to the people who run it, that until you are free their machine will be prevented from running at all. "

So spoke Mario at noon. There was little else to be said. We had waxed eloquent for three months. Our position was clear. Joan was back, and as she sang 1000 people, some laughing, some talking, but most quiet and serious entered Sproul Hall. The marathon sit-in began.

Eight hundred people prepared to spend the night inside Sproul Hall. On the fourth floor we set up a study area. On the third floor classes were held. The number of classes soon became greater than the space available on that floor, and we spread to the stair-wells and the basement. There were classes taught by TA's and others in Math, Anthropology, Genetics, several languages, the Civil Rights Movement in the Bay Area. A class on civil disobedience was taught in the fall-out shelter. On the second floor we watched movies -- on the serious side about HUAC, on the light side, Charlie Chaplin. Joan toured the building and led folk singing. On the first floor a full-fledged Chanuka service was held, which eventually broke into dancing and other festivities.

Our strategy was to stay in Sproul, assuming we were not arrested until Friday. The graduates were confident that a strike could effectively be called Friday after we had been sitting in for thirty-six hours.

11:00 pm: An emergency meeting was called at University Hall involving President Kerr, Chancellor Strong, and others from the state and local administration. Shortly thereafter a student posing as a respectable sort phoned the Kerr residence. He spoke with Mrs. Kerr and inquired what the President was going to do about those "beatniks" and "kooks." Mrs. Kerr indicated the President wanted to wait us out. We got similar reports from the emergency meeting in University Hall.

Midnight: Sproul Hall was relatively quiet. A few studied. Most people settled down to get some sleep.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2

By 1:00 am it was clear that police would be brought to the campus and we would be arrested or at least forced to leave Sproul Hall. We had walkie-talkies inside Sproul Hall. We were kept posted on every development around the campus. At 2:00 am we got a message over the air -- 600 police with tear gas, clubs, helmets, and guns were massing in a parking lot across the street from the campus. Governor Brown had overruled the University administration, and had called out the police. The FSM was going to be taught a lesson: You don't question authority, you conform to the regulations of the Board of Regents. But the police were very poor teachers of that lesson.

2:10 am: The Steering Committee held an emergency meeting. We decided that people who desired should go limp, but there was to be no linking of arms and no resistance to the police. We split up the floors among ourselves and scattered through the building. We announced that the police were coming, and informed people of our suggested tactics during the arrests. We told people of their constitutional rights when arrested, and urged everyone, once arrested, immediately and repeatedly to request to see his attorney.

3:00 am: Chancellor Strong went to each floor of Sproul Hall. Obviously shaken, barely capable of any semblance of composure, he urged us to disband our "illegal assembly" or face arrest. He said nothing about our demands .

4:00 am: Fourth floor of Sproul Hall. Arrests began. Faculty members and thousands of students began to gather outside Sproul Hall. Through the wee hours of the morning, and on into Thursday afternoon the arrests continued. It was the largest peace-time arrest in the history of the United States.

5:00 am - 5:00 pm: A club smashed the window on the second floor. The glass shattered. Students screamed. The police seized the microphone as Jack Weinberg tried to speak to the thousands outside, over our PA system, to tell them what was going on inside. The police left that area of the building and we reassembled the PA system. We had another mike. They came again, and this time were forced to retreat, unable to break through the seated students. Our loudspeaker continued to operate .

Members of the Faculty Student Conduct Committee tried to get into Sproul Hall to witness the arrests. They were denied admittance by the police. Campus police then blocked the windows of the building with newspaper so that reporters and faculty outside could not see in. Some members of the faculty tried to see President Kerr and other administrators. They could not meet with them.

The police hurled epithets, dug their nails into the bare skin of girls' stomachs. The guys were struck with clubs and kicked in the groin. Our arms were twisted. We were dragged up and down stairs. Limp bodies hurled through the air. A student in the Oakland jail said, "I'm a human being, "' protesting police action. He was grabbed by four police who knee-dropped him across the chest, twisted his arms behind his back and punched him. He was thrown into solitary confinement for two hours.

Most of us were taken to Santa Rita Prison Farm, which was used during World War II as a concentration camp for Japanese-Americans. Santa Rita is 35 miles south of Berkeley. We were not permitted to make phone calls for 15 and 16 hours. Many never made a call. During this time those of us in Santa Rita had no idea what was happening on the campus. We assumed that the TA's would call a strike. What was the response of the student body? What was the response of the faculty? Would we turn the tables? Or were our arrests in vain?

We were finally permitted to listen to one radio broadcast in prison -- 15 hours after our arrest. The announcer said that outside the gates of Santa Rita there was a line of cars two miles long. The cars belonged to members of the faculty. They had come to the jail to bring their students home -- to take their students back to their University. The ecstasy and joy we felt defies expression .

By noon on Thursday, the faculty called an emergency meeting and voted to raise bail for the students, condemned the action of the Governor, supported the-FSM . . . Yes . . . , the tables had turned. The campus was in complete chaos on Thursday. No classes were held Members of the faculty posted signs on their blackboards, on the doors of their offices: "I will not teach while 600 police are on my campus. The faculty raised $8500 for bail.

All day Thursday support for the FSM poured into Central. At noon a giant rally was held on the campus. l5, 000 people . . , Joan sang . . . Mario exhausted but jubilant at our growing strength spoke . . . John Burton, Willie Brown, Bill Stanton (Democratic Assemblymen) appeared at the FSM rally. Every academic building and administration building was covered by pickets. The University had come to a "grinding halt" And the cry for FREEDOM resounded through the groves of academe.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3 - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8

By Friday the organization of the strike began to have its effect. The Public Information Service of the University stated that the strike was 85% effective. Yet the newspapers in the Bay Area printed front-page headlines that the strike was a flop. By Monday even the Hearst Press had to admit that to some extent, at least, the strike was effective.

Over the weekend support for the FSM poured in from every conceivable source. Seventy-five attorneys came to the defense of the 800. From labor there was support The UAW in Los Angeles, the Central Labor Councils of Alameda, San Francisco, and Contra Costa Counties, and the Longshoremen condemned the use of police on the campus and called upon the Regents and the administration to grant full political freedom to the students. From sections of the Democratic Party support came, repudiating the action taken by the Governor. Letters and telegrams were sent to the Governor from numerous Young Democratic Clubs across the state, the California Democratic Council in the 7th Congressional District, the State Board of the CDC's, assemblymen besides those who spoke at our rally and congressmen like Nick Petras, Phil Burton, Don Edwards, Jimmy Roosevelt sent protests. Ministers from across the state declared public support, particularly from the Negro community. Prominent physicians and psychiatrists mobilized to print ads in the local papers in support of the FSM. Most important, the faculty rallied behind the FSM.

The FSM made plans to continue the strike on Monday and to end it at Monday midnight. The Academic Senate was scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon and we decided to call everything off in expectation of the results of the Senate meeting. We contacted some of the unions directly connected with the University, in particular, construction men and teamsters. We asked them to honor our strike. The reactions to this request were mixed. Our strike was not "legitimate. " Most unions left it up to their own men. There is written into the Teamster contract the stipulation that if a driver feels that he or his truck are endangered by crossing a picket line he does not have to go through. We joked with truck drivers on Monday morning when we didn't look "tough" enough. A driver stuck his head out of the window yelling, "Look tough " We did the best we could to look positively ferocious and some drivers turned back.

The administration and President Kerr, in an attempt to undercut both the strike and the Academic Senate meeting scheduled for Tuesday, called off classes on Monday between 9:00 am and noon, and called an "Extraordinary Convocation" at the Greek Theater for 11:00 am. The ad hoc Council of Department Chairmen and the President had reached agreement over the weekend for a "Peace Plan" and were to present it to the University community. Fifteen thousand people packed the Greek Theater. The convocation was to be addressed by Robert Scalapino, Chairman of the Political Science Department, and President Kerr. What ensued was aptly described by one columnist as the "Tragedy in the Greek Theater."

Prior to the meeting Mario and other members of the FSM Steering Committee went backstage to talk, first to Kerr then to Scalapino. We requested that Mario be given time to speak at the meeting since any peace plan had to be acceptable not only to the administration, but to the FSM. This request was denied. We then asked if Mario could simply announce that following the convocation there would be a rally of the FSM at Sproul Hall where we would give our response to the proposals. Scalapino declared that this was to be a "structured meeting, not an open forum," and he did not think it would be appropriate for Mario to speak. Standing to our left was John C. Leggett of the Sociology Department, a professor who had long supported the FSM. He asked to speak. Scalapino repeated, "This is to be a structured meeting, not an open forum.

As Mario walked out upon the stage of the Greek Theater to reach a seat he was greeted with an ovation from the students. It was at this time that we decided that it was entirely appropriate for him to speak at the conclusion of the meeting, and simply announce that the FSM rally would be held.

The "Peace Plan" offered by the Kerr-Scalapino axis was no peace plan at all. Its only concession was that no disciplinary action would be taken against students for participation in demonstrations. There was nothing said concerning the substantive issues for which 800 people had gone to jail.

As President Kerr finished his remarks Mario rose and walked quietly to the far end of the stage. Scalapino then adjourned the meeting. As he did so, Mario walked calmly but swiftly to the microphone. Silence. Mario opened his mouth to speak. At that moment three police emerged from backstage and seized Mario by the throat. He went limp and was dragged from the platform before 15,000 stunned students and faculty. Immediately the cry went up: LET HIM SPEAK! LET HIM SPEAK! Our attorney appeared and demanded that he be released or placed under arrest. We pounded on the door behind which Mario was locked demanding his release. As the theater threatened to turn into complete chaos, Mario was led by Scalapino to the microphone and quietly made his announcement. But the damage to the University, to the President was irreparable. The President spoke magnificently of freedom, and stood passively by as the leader of the Free Speech Movement was dragged by the throat from the stage!

We left the Greek Theater and went to the FSM rally. One department chairman spoke: ". . . the power of the University is now with you, the students. . . and I have full confidence that you will conduct yourselves with responsibility . . ." All the chairmen who spoke indicated that, had they known that Mario wanted to speak, they would have consented. But they were not consulted . . .

The following day 6000 students waited outside while the unprecedented session of the Academic Senate convened. Over 900 faculty members were present, the largest turnout for a Senate meeting that anyone remembered. They voted on three principles: (1) there was to be no regulation of the content of speech; (2) regulations about time, place, and manner of political activity were to be only such as are necessary for the normal functioning of the University; and (3) in the area of political activity, student discipline was to be in the hands of the faculty who were to have final authority. All attempts to amend the resolutions or to weaken them were defeated. The vote was taken: 824 ayes, 115 nays. The Senate then voted to elect an Executive Committee to bring the Senate principles to the Board of Regents' meeting and fight for their acceptance.

That same day (December 8) the results of the student election were announced. Seven out of seven candidates running on a SLATE-FSM platform were elected to the student senate with overwhelming majorities. It was the largest turnout of student voters since World War II.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9 - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10

The joy, the elation, that swept the campus for days was indescribable. Tables were up everywhere. There was a holiday atmosphere, and it was more than the holiday season. In two days the FSM sold 4500 copies of its 45 rpm record: "Joy to UC: Free Speech Christmas Carols." A graduate study of the Free Speech Movement sold out 4000 copies in a day. Students made arrangements to speak in their home towns over the vacation to tell the story of the FSM .

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11

The Board of Regents met in Los Angeles. Badly split as to a proper response to the FSM and the faculty, they flatly rejected the faculty proposal for final authority over student discipline and said that the matter was "non-negotiable." The moderate wing of the Regents set up a committee to study regulations to govern political activity. The right wing of the Regents established a secret investigating committee to investigate communist influence in the FSM, etc., etc., etc.

CHRISTMAS VACATION - PRESENT

In many ways the vacation was more hectic than the time when classes were in session. The Emergency Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, the Academic Freedom Committee of the Academic Senate, the Chancellor- appointed Student Affairs Committee and the Regents' committees were meeting. While these meetings were in progress the FSM mobilized a national defense campaign for the 800.

By the second week of vacation the Executive Committee and the Academic Freedom Committee of the Academic Senate came out with interim reports. The FSM met with both groups. We were successful in getting certain clarifications on the question of advocacy in the Executive Committee report. This report also called for the establishment of a Faculty Student Conduct Committee whose members were to be selected by the Academic Senate to adjudicate disciplinary cases in the area of political activity.

The Academic Freedom Committee report was discouraging. Rather than standing on the principle that regulations should consist only of those necessary for the normal functioning of the University (the principle accepted by the Senate on December 8) it suggested many unnecessary regulations, including, for example, resolutions about what literature could be sold at an organization's table.

Tension mounted as January 4, the first day of classes, approached. We were not sure what regulations were to be in effect or what Chancellor Strong would do if we held a rally on Sproul Hall steps which he deemed to be "illegal. " This anxiety reached its climax, when on Saturday, January 2, the Regents and President Kerr announced the resignation of Strong, and the appointment to the Chancellorship of Martin Myerson, formally Chairman of the Department of Environmental Design.

Myerson held a press conference on Sunday night, January 3. The immediate problems for Monday were solved when he stated that we could hold our rally on the Sproul Hall steps, and we could set up our tables unrestricted. His position on advocacy was quite good, indicating that he thought the courts should handle abuses of First Amendment rights. Most significantly, he indicated that civil disobedience in his view could be warranted, under certain circumstances, and implied that the sit-in of December 2-3 might well have been justified.

On Thursday, January 7, the FSM Steering Committee met with the new Chancellor. It was an amiable discussion, and the Chancellor assured us that before any regulations were finally issued we would have a chance to meet with him and discuss them.

Some members of the faculty, fully in agreement with the FSM, are drawing up regulations for the campus. As of this writing there are no regulations on the Berkeley campus. It is hoped that by the start of the Spring Semester new regulations will be instituted which will stand by the principles of the .FSM and the Academic Senate.

With the campus dispute apparently moving toward solution, the FSM is confronted by the threat of counterattack. Many investigators from the FBI and from various investigating committees are combing Berkeley, questioning students about the FSM. Rumors are varied, but there are indications that HUAC and/or the Burns Committee (the California version of HUAC), will hold hearings on the FSM.

The main weapon being used against the FSM now is the courts. Our demand that University administration that University administration leave the legal questions about our political activity up to the courts was based on our conviction that the University has no business settling matters of law, not on any illusion that the civil courts are wholly impartial and necessarily fair. We have almost 800 persons to defend. We have defied the spirit of no law and no concept of democratic justice.

We are calling for a mass trial where the legal issues can be fought out. We do not want to clog the courts; we do not want eighty separate trials. We recognize that ours is a political case, and we are conducting, not only a legal fight to free the 800, but also a political campaign to mobilize support for the defendants.

Probably trials will begin by the middle of February. How long litigation will drag on, we do not know. But as long as there are defendants, as long as the 800 remain in jeopardy, as long as Freedom languishes at Berkeley, so long we shall remain a cohesive and fighting Free Speech Movement.

(February 1, 1965)


Copyright 1998 by Bettina Aptheker. This work may not be reproduced in any medium which is sold, subject to access fee, or supported by advertising, without explicit prior consent by the author.

 

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