Thursday, October 02, 2014

At Berkeley, Free (Though Subdued) Speech, 50 Years Later

A protest at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement of 1964, which spread to other campuses. Credit Steve Marcus, via The Bancroft Library/University of California, Berkeley


BERKELEY, Calif. — Fifty years ago Wednesday, Jack Weinberg sat in the back of a police car on the University of California campus here for 32 hours while thousands of students blocked the vehicle’s exit, protesting Mr. Weinberg’s arrest on charges of manning an information table about the civil rights movement. The demonstrators politely removed their shoes — to avoid scratching the vehicle — before climbing to the roof of the patrol car, which became a pulpit for grievances.

“It was an open mike,” Mr. Weinberg recalled, returning to campus this week to commemorate the birth of what became known as the Free Speech Movement, of which he was a chief tactician.

His arrest on Oct. 1, 1964, and confinement in the police car marked the beginning of widespread student activism at Berkeley, which would spread to other campuses, fueling the antiwar movement and other political causes while empowering their conservative critics. At Berkeley, where tables with political literature were not allowed, Mr. Weinberg and others argued that the right to free speech — to mobilize on civil rights and other issues — should not be denied them because they were at the university.

(More here.)


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