Berkeley: The New Student Revolt
by Hal Draper
Chapters 10 to 17
(out of 43)
(see here for chapters 1-10)
11 The Police-car
On the morning of October 1, a student phoned me
to ask whether I would speak at a "Free Speech Rally" which the United Front of
clubs was organizing for noon in Sproul Hall Plaza. The eight students had been summarily
suspended the night before. Three different leaflets calling for the rally were being
distributed at the entrances to the campus. Students and faculty were asked to demand a
lifting of the suspensions and equal treatment for all the student rule-violators, as well
as the original demands for rescission of the new regulations.
About that same time in mid-morning, shortly
after 10, the first table appeared at Sather Gate; then others -- about ten in all before
long. At 11 o'clock the tables moved over to the foot of Sproul Hall steps. For the next
30-40 minutes the "table-manners" industriously violated regulations,
particularly by asking for contributions. In two large knots of students lively debates on
the issues went on between articulate proponents. *
At about a quarter to 12, Deans Murphy and Van
Houten emerged from the building together with the campus police chief, and approached the
tables. The Campus CORE table was perhaps the largest in size -- a door panel on supports
-- with eight or ten people operating it. Dean Van Houten approached the loudest of the
group and asked: "Are you prepared to remove yourself and the table from university
He wasn't. "I must inform you," said
the dean, "that if you are a student, you are violating university regulations; and
if you are a non-student you are violating the trespass law. Will you identify yourself?
... You leave no alternative but to ask Lieutenant Chandler to arrest you. Lieutenant
Chandler, put him under arrest."
When the police chief said, "Will you come
peacefully, or if not, we'll take you," the cry went up, "Take all of us!"
The cop went off to get help.
The CORE member now under arrest was in fact
tempos rarity a non-student. Jack Weinberg, 24, had been a graduate student in mathematics
but had dropped out about November of the previous year. He had then gotten himself deeply
involved with CORE's "Shattuck Avenue project," and mathematics (as he put it to
me later) "no longer meant that much" to him. He was going to rethink his
personal perspective.** In the meantime he had become a veteran of three arrests at Bay
Area civil-rights actions: the Sheraton-Palace sit-in, the Cadillac agency picket, and a
demonstration at Mel's Drive-In. Being "bugged" by the police was not a novelty.
While waiting for the police reinforcements to
return and with the "little dean" patiently standing by, Weinberg ad dressed
himself to the growing crowd of students, in what turned into a little speech:
I want to tell you about this knowledge factory,
while we're all sitting here now. It seems that certain of the products are not coming out
to standard specifications. And I feel the university is trying to purge these products so
that they can once again produce for the industry exactly what they specify. This is a
Knowledge Factory; if you read Clark Kerr's book, these are his words.... This is mass
product tion; no deviations from the norms are tolerated. Occasion ally a few students get
together and they decide they are human beings, that they are not willing to be products,
and they protest; and the university feels obliged to purge these non- standard products.
Weinberg was here taking off from a talk I had
given for the Independent Socialist Club that week on "Behind the Ban: Clark Kerr's
View of the University as a Knowledge Factory." A number of other FSM activists-to-be
had been at the meeting too. But in any case the idea was in the air: twice during the
preceding week the Daily Cal had published letters from students which were along
similar lines even though without reference to Kerr's theory at all.
A hostile student asked Weinberg why the
advocacy of social action was so important to the protesters.
It's very simple [replied Weinberg]. We want to
see social change in the world in which we live. We want to see this social change because
we are human beings who have ideas. We think, we talk, we discuss, and when we're done
thinking and talking and discussing, well then, we feel that these things are vacuous
unless we then act on the principle that we think, talk and discuss about. This is as much
a part of a university education as anything else.
We feel that we, as human beings first and
students second, must take our stand on every vital issue which faces this nation, and in
particular the vital issue of discrimination, of segregation, of poverty, of unemployment;
the vital issue of people who aren't getting the decent breaks that they as individuals
That was as far as he got. A police car had been
driven right into the middle of the plaza, and the police now informed him that he was
under arrest for trespassing. As he went limp they prepared to carry him into the car.
Even as they were doing so, some students started to sit down between the table and the
car, in the way of the harassed policemen as they carried their prisoner across.
There are almost as many claimants for the honor
of being "the first to sit down around the police car" as there were cities
claiming to be Homer's birthplace, but in this case the explanation is different. People
unacquainted with the civil rights movement believe that "someone" must have
launched the move, but in point of fact it is almost a reflex action among experienced
civil-rights activists, of whom there were many within ten feet. The same thing had been
done when the paddy wagons had rolled up for the Cadillac agency demonstrators that
Literally in less time than it-has taken to
tell, the police car into which Weinberg had been bundled was surrounded by sitting
students. For a while the engine was kept running as the police stolidly waited for them
to give up. But it was going to be 32 hours before that car moved.
* This and the next scene are based on the tapes
made on the by the ubiquitous reporters of Pacifica Radio, station KPFA.
** This describes a very typical example of the
"non-students" who were soon going to be denounced by the authorities and the
press as if they were outside agitators imported from Caracas. Indeed, official
recognition of some "non-students" as rightful members of the university
community was later regis- tered when the UCLA administration adopted new regulations in
December on the basis of the lessons of Berkeley: the definition of "student"
specifically included "those who have been regularly enrolled in the preceding
semester (or quarter) and who in addition are eligible to return at their own
option." A similar proposal was made by a Berkeley faculty committee, inconclusively.
Unofficially, recent alumni and drop-outs of even more than one semester ago are socially
and psychologically an accepted part of the university community.
12 Second Sit-in
and the Greeks
A student named
Jamie Burton pushed his way into the hubbub around the car. "I've been upstairs
talking to Dean Williams ... As long as there is trouble down here, we can't talk in good
faith," he expostulated.
replied, "Here's a compromise for the dean: release the guy, don't bother the people
on the tables, and we'll quietly disperse till the end of negotiations."
interchange, Burton shrilled in indignant exasperation: "You're a bunch of fools.
Look, you're asking too much!"
This student was
the very first of a long line of personages of all degrees of eminence who were going to
say the same thing. In this case, the immediate response to Burton's agonized cry was a
mass chant: "Let him go! Let him go!...
Savio started to
speak to the crowd, now quickly swelling by hundreds as the noon hour struck and
classrooms poured out. The better to be seen, he hoisted himself on top of the car, taking
his shoes off; the policemen made no objection. From this position, he suggested a sit-in
at Sproul Hall.
The president of
the ASUC, Charles Powell, newly arrived, asked for the "floor" (i.e. the car
top), took off his shoes, and climbed up. "If you let me speak for you, I'll ask the
deans that this boy here be allowed to go free ..." Students roared back, "What
about the other eight?" Powell replied, "This one is the immediate problem; all
right?" There were shouts of "No." Weinberg leaned out of the car window
and cried "I'm not the immediate problem; we're all together." Powell tacked:
"I'll ask at the same time about the other eight. Meanwhile I ask you that you give
the [ASUC] Senate a week's time ..." (There was that note again; Go home: let us
leaders settle it for you ...)
that he would go immediately with Powell to see the deans, and introduced me as the next
speaker. I had arrived some minutes after 12, just before Powell spoke, and had barely
learned what had happened. There were perhaps a couple of hundred actually sitting down,
but by this time the crowd seemed to extend as far as the eye could see in every direction
around the car, a few thousand in number. On one side, the broad steps of Sproul Hall
acted as a convenient grandstand for a thousand or so, and Savio and Powell had
instinctively faced in this direction.
It was a tense
situation, but what was more vivid at the time was a peculiar fact: this was my first
speech in stockinged feet. Or from the top of a police car. There was no loudspeaker, but
the immense crowd was amazingly quiet and orderly, except for weak heckling that soon died
away. By the time I had spoken for fifteen minutes about the basic issues in
"mounting social and political action" that had led to the suspensions and this
protest, my voice was breaking.
A succession of
speakers followed, for hours, many of them club representatives who related their attempts
at negotiation with the administration.
returned and reported on his fruitless conversation with the administration -- who were
standing pat on the formula "Not negotiable!" -- sentiment turned toward the
sit-in proposal that had been thrown out earlier. Toward 3 o'clock, about 200 students
went in, leaving enough sitters behind to keep the car immobilized.
faculty members had been trying to mediate the dispute, even though administration
spokesmen kept telling them as well as the students that the issues were "not
negotiable." (The tale about seeking "reasonable discussion" had not yet
undertook to convince the students to give up the Sproul sit-in as an earnest of good
will, to make it easier for them to mediate with Kerr. Under this pressure, most of the
sit-inners left the building temporarily as a unilateral concession. But Kerr could not be
contacted, even by the faculty members.
When the guards
started locking the doors of the building about 6:30, the students rushed back in, and
there was a short scuffle with the police. By about 8, almost all pulled out again but
they quickly found that this brought no change of attitude on the part of the
administration (except, perhaps, to convince it that the students could be bullied by a
were taken aback by the realization that Kerr and Strong were following a course of tough
intransigence. A student proposal that the police-car blockade would be ended if the
administration turned the eight suspensions into citations before the Faculty Committee on
Student Conduct (as the Heyman Committee later decided should have been done
anyway) evoked no interest from the authorities. The vigil around the police car went on
in the darkness; the speeches went on, more desultory; the roof of the car became one
large dent, and eventually speakers stopped taking off their shoes. The prospect seemed a
quiet night, when, around 11 in the evening, the plaza was invaded by a phalanx of
fraternity boys who had been mobilized out of the Greek-letter houses.
Estimates of the
"Greek" contingent run from 100 to 200 (I think it was nearer 100), but this was
more than enough if the aim was to touch off a riot in order to involve the police.
Arriving from the Bancroft side, the "Greeks" made for the main body of the
sitters, but the intervening standees linked arms, swayed a bit, and held. Late as it was,
there were still thousands in the plaza, and what was visible at this point was that the
mass were decisively with the demonstrators even though not sitting down themselves.
Their first rush
turned back, the fret boys began to express their opinions by hurling lighted cigarettes
and eggs at the sitters, an amusement which they continued sporadically for the next
couple of hours. Their main body then took up a station on the Sproul steps
"grandstand" and tried to drown out speakers by systematic noise-making -- the
noises being demands for observance of law and order. When the demonstrators asked them to
listen to and reply to the "free speech" case against the regulations, they
raucously chanted, "We Want Our Own Police Car!"
Finally, one of
the invaders did mount the police car and speak, making a respectable defense of Law and
Order as an absolute, only to be shouted down by his own "Greek chorus" almost
as rudely as were the demonstrators. Meanwhile the latter, tightly repressing any tendency
to reply in kind to the provocations, were successfully frustrating the invaders'
intentions. An uglier note began to creep into the "Greek" insults.
By this time,
however, a sort of rescue mission had arrived. An ASUC vice-president took the rostrum
with a direct appeal to the fret boys to leave, in the name of the law and order they were
invoking. A dean did likewise, and even this symbol of Law and Order was jeered, as was
also the information that the police themselves (Law and Order incarnate) would prefer
that they go home.
It was not until
Father James Fisher of Newman House made a solemn appeal to them that the mood changed.
the immediate hush
was broken by a raucous jeer from one of the Greeks, the crowd grasped the situation as if
of one mind. The thousands of demonstrators maintained an absolute pin-drop silence
without a word of instruction, and the now isolated shouts by a few fret yell-leaders
began to make even their own troops squirm. It was not long before the whole platoon slunk
report later made by Chancellor Strong described these fraternity hooligans as
"student counter-action in maintaining law and order on the campus."
blockaders settled down. It was a mild night.
13 Whose Law and
That day, the
argumentation swirling in knots around the car and the campus had naturally tended to
shift away from the "free speech" issues to the derivative issue of "Law
and Order." Assuming that the administration was wrong in imposing the new
restrictions, as an overwhelming majority of the campus agreed, was this the way to fight
it? asked anxious students, turning over the crisis in their minds.
undigested rhetorical platitudes on both sides. On the one hand, what would society be
without Law and Order? On the other hand, one could read, in a local guidebook to the East
Bay area, that President Kerr was a great civil-libertarian who had loftily proclaimed:
I would urge each
individual ... to teach children, in the home and in the school, "To be laws to
themselves and to depend on themselves," as Walt Whitman urged us ... for that is the
well-source of the independent spirit.
themselves!" This Whitmanesque anarchism went far beyond what the students were
demanding. It appeared that, in his character as a Liberal Philosopher, Kerr called on
students to be Independent Spirits, but in his character as Responsible Administrator he
had to punish them if they took him seriously.
and Order" seemed to be an indivisible phrase like "hue and cry," the
events of this day and subsequent days suggested a cleavage. Whatever indignities the law
was suffering, the mass of students went through the entire three months of sharp conflict
with a regard for order, orderliness and individual self-discipline that was phenomenal.
The scuffle that day around the Sproul Hall doors was a minor exception, but even such an
incident did not recur. On the night of October 1, it had been the touters of Law who were
the flouters of Order.
The CIO sitdown
strikes of the thirties had been clear violations of law too. As a result they had brought
a measure of democracy and human dignity to the shops and assembly lines. Many who
denounced the students' sit-ins seemed to think the students had invented the tactic. Nor
did they ask themselves how "criminal" it could be if the Berkeley halls of
learning suddenly produced such a multitude of criminals. If several thousands of the
brightest scholars in California had been driven to measures so heinous, didn't this
suggest there might be something dreadfully wrong with what the administration was doing,
that it had pushed them to desperate recourses?*
The students that
day heard many abstract appeals to the sanctity of law, but the "law" itself did
not seem to behave so abstractly. It was certainly not blind. Instead of impartially
punishing all "lawbreakers," the administration was openly and
"gratuitously" singling out leaders for punishment ("almost as
hostages," as the Heyman Committee put it.) It was acting as if interested not in
enforcing blind law but rather in beheading a mass protest.
The issue was put
most provocatively from the top of the police car as dusk was falling. We have mentioned
that a number of professors had been trying to act as mediators between the demonstrators
and President Kerr. One of them climbed on top of the car to tell the crowd of students
not only that it ras useless to expect concessions from Kerr but also that the police-car
blockade was antidemocratic and immoral.
This was Seymour
Martin Lipset, one of the most upwardly mobile of the sociology professors, who had
recently been honored by Kerr with the directorship of the Institute of International
Studies, an academic entrepreneur of notable talent in channeling government and
foundation grant money, who was himself then engaged in research on foreign student
movements for the Air Force (which was presumably interested in a bird's-eye view of the
that the students were acting "like the Ku Klux Klan," for did not the Southern
segregationists also believe in violating the law when they didn't like it, instead of
obeying decisions adopted in a democracy? (Kerr was going to echo this line later.)
debate broke out as students called out rebuttals. The most obvious answer was that the
university community was not even theoretically a democracy, even though it existed within
a democracy (just as any factory is an authoritarian regime within the larger society).
Kerr openly wrote of the Multiversity's government as a "benevolent
bureaucracy." Although one of the easy platitudes of the day was the advice that the
students should "exhaust all channels" before resorting to drastic protest,
there were in fact no "channels" open to the students that had not been
available to the sans-culottes under Louis XVI, such as the right of petition. Precisely
when the students had sought to appeal to the larger democracy in which the university was
embedded -- "to precipitate a test of the [constitutional] validity of the
regulations in some arena outside the university," as the Heyman Committee
said -- the Benevolent Bureaucracy inside the university had reacted violently with the coup
de force of the summary suspensions.
that "democracy" in the situation meant acting only through the so-called
student government, ASUC.** This argument assumed that ASUC was indeed "student
government." But as we have mentioned, the most advanced one-third of the students
were excluded from it, and the simulacrum of government which did exist was firmly
circumscribed by the administration itself. No one, including the administration, took
ASUC seriously as a government, especially since the 1959 disfranchisement of the graduate
students. "Acting through ASUC" usually had the operational meaning of waiting
while Charles Powell and his "sandbox" colleagues sparred with the
administration, or else of waiting for the next election -- but in any case doing nothing
now. (But when the next election took place, the rebel students did "act through
ASUC" to the extent of winning the most smashing group victory in the history of the
student government.) ***
the students' demands did not merely depend on proving that a majority supported them. The
number of students themselves interested in "mounting social and political
action" was admittedly a minority, but the majority (it was contended) does not have
the right to exclude this minority from the possibility of acting. Democracy, of course,
does not mean "majority decision" without the main-, tenance of the rights of
minorities. If a majority passes a law to gag you, you have the moral and political duty
of fighting back with every means left. Thus went the students' case.
So much for the
context of democracy. The Lipset analogy with the KKK went further. The Klan do not like
the Supreme Court's directives and wish to violate them; and so, skulking in the dead of
night with hooded visages, they terrorize -- not the Supreme Court itself (which would
take some courage) -- but defenseless Negroes, by beating them, burning churches,
murdering civil-rights workers. And this even though as citizens they have full rights
(denied to their victims) in helping to determine the law.
The case of the
students was just the reverse. In the microcosm of the university community, the students
were informed -- by an administration in which they had no say, by a Power Structure in
which they had no vote -- that they (not their "victims") were being
deprived of some basic feedoms of campus life. They were also informed that the issue was
"not negotiable," that they had no further recourse. They responded, in the open
light of day, with civil disobedience. They did not beat up their "victims," the
administration; on the contrary, it is they who were eventually roughed up. Yet they were
told that they were "just like the Ku Klux Klan."
What is the
meaning of civil disobedience? It deliberately violates a law, with as great an insistence
on open publicity as the Ku Klux Klan and other criminals insist on clandestine evasion,
because the act has meaning only as an appeal to the public conscience. Its aim is to put
the authorities on the spot. It says: We hereby put our bodies on the line
publicly and openly, and challenge you to enforce your Law and Order. We wish to
compel you to take the consequences of arresting us ...
All this is the
exact opposite of criminal violations of law, even if these are politically motivated
violations like the Klan's. "The consequences of arresting us" concentrate
public attention on the concrete evil which is under attack. "We" do not meekly
collapse under arrest; we vigorously protest the step. A strange argument is frequently
made: if you challenge arrest and do in fact get arrested, "you have no right to
complain." On the contrary: "complaining" (protest) is the whole point of
Lipset was finally
pushed by the give-and-take to admit that Civil disobedience might be all right in the
South because of the lack of democracy there; yet, in terms of his own analogy, he did not
conclude that Ku Klux Klan Iynchings were all right in the South (or anywhere else)
because of the special circumstances. The new Berkeley chancellor, Martin Meyerson, was
later to concede, also, that civil disobedience might be legitimate "as a last
resort"; but presumably Lipset would not agree that Ku Klux Klanism could be
legitimate in any resort. By fathering the "Ku Klux Klan" charge against the
student protest, Lipset became known as one of the prominent adversaries of the movement
among the faculty.
* The same point
has been made about the American colonists of 1776. In this connection, interestingly
enough, Governor Brown has revealed that he isn't at all sure but that Sam Adams & Co.
were a bunch of troublemakers like the FSM. Here is his discussion of civil disobedience
in a radio interview (KPFA, March 28, 1965): "I spoke to Mario Savio on the telephone
and he said, 'Would you have opposed the Boston Tea Party?' and I said, 'Well, I don't
know whether I'd have opposed the Boston Tea Party or not. But I do know that the colonial
government sent representatives to the court of Ring lames in order to achieve -- or King
George -- I forget who it was -- King George, that's right -- to achieve their proper
objective, and they only resorted to that as a last resort. Now I wouldn't be prepared to
say that under certain circumstances where rights are denied an individual that he might
not feel he can achieve it is by revolt [sic], but if he does revolt then he'd
better be prepared to either win or suffer the civil consequences of what he does."
-- Or in better-known terms: the Patriots are the side that wins.
** Cf. Lewis
Feuer, "Rebellion at Berkeley -- II," New Leader, January 4, 1965.
*** Later, the
ASUC vice-president, not an FSM'er, "explained the actions of the [ASUC] Senate are
frequently ignored by the faculty and administration on the grounds the government is not
respected by the students. The students, he stated, do not respect the government because
its actions are not honored by the faculty and administration." (Daily Cal,
Feb. 4, 1965.) The usual number of students voting in an ASUC election was less than one
of the smaller FSM demonstrations. On October 1, ASUC President Powell issued a formal
statement jettisoning the ASUC position of September 22. He now informed the students that
nothing could be done about the ban on recruitment and fund-raising because "the
prohibition ... is not a ruling of the chancellor or of President Clark Kerr. It is, in
fact, a State law." (This, of course, was untrue.) "I ask," he concluded,
"that you not oppose the administration -- the administration can do nothing to meet
the demands being made."
14 "You Can't
The next day,
Friday, was the hottest October 2 in local history. The temperature was in the middle
eighties when the noon rally opened, still from the top of the car. The crowd again
overfilled the plaza, but now there was a loudspeaker too (for which I was grateful).
Sproul Hall was closed to all except "authorized persons."
In the morning,
arriving students were greeted by the 200 or so who had remained around the car all night,
in blankets or sleeping bags, some trying to study by a feeble light, others singing
around a guitar. They were also greeted by a leaflet issued by the United Front of clubs,
demanding reinstatement of the suspended students and dropping of charges against Jack
Weinberg, as well as restoration of "freedom of speech" and the right to
political activity that did not "interfere with the normal functioning of the
university." It urged students to wear a black armband, obtainable at Sather Gate, to
show agreement with the demands. The following thirteen clubs signed to show support for
Democrats University Young Republicans Campus CORE California Students for Goldwater
Campus Civil Liberties Union Slate Young Socialist Alliance Independent Socialist Club
W.E.B. DuBois Club Berkeley Young Democratic Club Students for a Democratic Society
Friends of SNCC Women for Peace
attitude taken by the Goldwaterites and other conservatives was that while supporting the
aims, they would join only in lawful actions. "But let no one mistake our
intent," one of them warned. "The United Front still stands." On top of the
car the microphone was turned over by the demonstrators to opponents and critics of the
protest as well as to supporters, in an attempt at a dialogue with skeptical or
antagonistic students. Efforts at mediation by faculty members intensified as the day wore
... but the
administration told them, and told the students as well, that the issues of the rules and
the disciplinary measures were not negotiable. (Administrative officers consistently
refused to discuss the issues in dispute as long as regulations were being violated,
thereby abdicating their power to alleviate a situation of growing intensity.) (A
Suggestion for Dismissal.)
Kerr, in a
scheduled speech that noon at an American Council on Education gathering in San Francisco,
interpolated a tough attack on the students as "a mob ... assembled on the Berkeley
The rules will not
be changed in the face of mob action. The penalties already assessed against certain
students will not be removed in the face of mob action.
At a press
conference he "flatly ruled out any possibility of compromise," and with
"uncompromising tone," said, "There is no possibility whatsoever that we
will remove the penalties imposed on certain students." (S. F. Chronicle
Oct. 3, under the headline: "Before the Agreement: Kerr Ruled Out Compromise!")
From every side it
was dinned into the students' ears that "You can't win; give up." The Daily
Cal's senior editorial board ran a special editorial assuring that:
has drawn the line at what it believes is the last concession on the university level. We
completely believe they are telling the truth. Those who espouse oversimplified concepts
of the issues and solutions will tell you otherwise. The university has drawn the last
line it can.
There was an
especially powerful "mediators' backlash." Kerr, an experienced labor mediator
himself, was well aware that a skillful negotiator can turn mediators into instruments to
convince the other side to yield, by first convincing the mediators that any further
retreat on his part is out of the question. The mediators then go to the other side and
say, "Look, we'll tip you off ..."
The mediator who
particularly played this role actively was Professor Lipset, who took every opportunity to
assure the student leaders that Kerr could not possibly afford to compromise since he
would be fired from the presidency if he did so. Professor Nathan Glazer pressed the same
argumentation, and had also spoken from the top of the car the day before with advice to
surrender the blockade. In the middle of October 2, Lipset however abandoned his mediator
role and was not involved when the actual rapprochement took place
morning, President Kerr and Chancellor Strong both agreed on mobilizing the police for
action against the students. By 10:30 A.M., ranking officers of the campus police,
Berkeley police, Oakland police, state Highway Patrol and the Alameda County sheriff's
office were in Sproul Hall "at a three-hour session to hammer out the master
plan" (as the Oakland Tribune said) for "the massive police
effort." At five minutes to noon, direct representatives of Kerr and also of Governor
Brown joined the session. The police were to be armed with pistols, billy-clubs and tear
gas, and some were called in from as far as Vallejo. The largest number were from the
Oakland police -- known for what is called "toughness" by friends and
"sadistic brutality" by critics -- and from the Highway Patrol, provided by the
governor. This was a fairly wide United Front too.
An agreement was
reached among the university representatives and police strategists for a 6 P.M. deadline,
at which time Chancellor Strong would read a statement calling for dispersal -- or else
... (It should be noted that a later tale, that this deadline was leveled by the police against
the university, was not true.)
administration was all prepared, with a tough no-compromise stand and with the police,
clubs and tear gas to implement it. Tomorrow, Saturday, was -- as luck would have it -- to
be "Parents Day," when the proud papas and mamas were due to overrun the campus
to inspect the place where their progeny studied so hard. Kerr and Strong had to get the
"mob" out of the plaza before then, one way or another. Their army of cops
started mobilizing against the nonviolent army around the car.
But not all the
mediators had given up, and new ones had gone to work in the morning. In addition to
faculty members, the problem had reached local Democratic politicos The latter were
concerned as individuals, but in addition the Democratic administration in Sacramento was
in it hip-deep. What would happen to the Liberal Image of the governor if this regiment of
police were loosed on the kids in the plaza, with unpredictable consequences?
From the beginning
Governor Brown had lined up with both feet -- with both feet in the mouth as usual, some
thought -- on the side of the tough fire-breathing policy: "This is not a matter of
freedom of speech on the campus," he claimed on Thursday, but "purely and simply
an attempt on the part of the students to use the campus of the university unlawfully by
soliciting funds.... This will not be tolerated." (Brown seemed to think there was a
law, rather than a campus regulations tion, against soliciting funds. ) Speaking at the
American Council on Education meeting, he vowed that he was in favor of freedom of thought
and would maintain it, adding: "Even if we have to expel a few students from time
to time." He issued a statement that he "supports fully" the
suspension of the eight students.
All through this
tense Friday, Kerr remained in close telephone contact with the governor. A couple of
Democratic politicos in the East Bay, informed by students that they wanted to deal with
Kerr but could not get to him, seem to have had a hand in bringing about the negotiations
that ensued, after considerable phoning around the state to party stalwarts.
faculty group had been working in the same direction on campus. As late as 3 P.M. Strong
still told the professors that he refused to negotiate with the students. But around 4
o'clock the students were given to understand that Kerr would finally deal with them, and
a meeting at University Hall was set up for 5. The students were already prepared with a
negotiation committee, chosen the previous day and now enlarged. The committee that went
to see Kerr were, in terms of their personal affiliation, from: CORE, Independent
Socialist Club, Slate, SNCC, Students for Democratic Society, Women for Peace, Young
Democrats, Young Peoples Socialist League, Young Republicans -- nine in all. In addition,
the administration brought in the ASUC president, the Daily Cal editor, and
representatives of the Inter-Faith Council.
mediators had drafted points for a pact, and the parley between the dual powers got under
15 The Pact of
By this time Kerr
was facing the deadline he had helped to set. Sproul Hall had become a seething fortress
of armed men in uniform, who started crowding into the usually staid halls at the same
time that Kerr began the meeting with the students. They were going to wait in the hot,
stuffy corridors for two and a half hours, shedding their jackets from time to time,
adjusting their riot helmets, giving their holsters a hitch. All of them were on overtime
pay and the operation was costing from $2500 to $3000 per hour. The official word was that
there were 450500 police, but only the San Francisco Examiner (Hearst) reporters
made a physical count and they reported almost a thousand -- 965 to be exact. Sheriff's
buses and paddy wagons were lined up to take away the bodies.
If this army had
been given the word to go against the mass of students in the plaza outside, it would not
only have been a question of the hundreds sitting down, who would of course go limp when
arrested. The best guess is that the battle plan which had been laboriously worked out
called first for opening up a wide corridor between the building entrance and the car, so
that the arrested students could be carried into Sproul (where they would then be handled
very much as in the proceedings of December 3, which is still ahead in our story) .
would have had-to be cut through an intervening crowd of a couple of thousand students,
who were not themselves sitting down but who were jammed in between the building doors and
the sitters, and who would be compressed even more by the movement of other thousands in
the plaza toward the scene of action. If the thousands of standees were not all definitely
sympathetic with the sitters, they were yet likely to be antagonistic to the armed police
descending on them. The potentialities were further darkened by the incredible decision of
the authorities that the police should carry this off with guns at hand, not to speak of
This was the
picture that Kerr faced, and he did not like it. Perhaps the original decision to call in
the police that morning had seemed like the routine thing to do; but this was the reality.
The issues became "negotiable" after all; compromise became possible after all;
he found he had to talk with the "mob," or else face an even more unpleasant
Meanwhile, back on
the plaza, word of the impending action began to spread soon after 5. When I arrived about
5:30, the air over the plaza was electric. There were perhaps 300 sitting down now, in an
irregular free-form area around the car; these were prepared to be arrested. The crowd was
a solid wall circling this theater-in-the-round. The top of the car had been turned into a
lecture platform on what to do till the policeman comes. Civil-rights veterans gave
instructions on going limp, advised on what to get rid of (wrist watches, earrings, etc.
), warned against linking arms or struggling with the cops. A lawyer gave information on
legal rights. And time and again, student leaders would emphasize that no one should sit
down unless he had really thought it through. Foreign students were advised not to join
in; so were students of juvenile-court age (under 18). It was not being made easy to sit
The picture later
drawn of this "hard core" as a legion of hardened radicals is good for a wry
smile. My wife and I talked to the students sitting nearby with us: they had never been
arrested, they had never participated in any political activity. Had we ever been arrested
and what was it like? they asked apprehensively. We assured them we had, as if it were
routine -- though in fact we each had been arrested only once, in strikes.
They were sitting
down only because they felt that they had to, that they would not be able to live with
themselves if they did not. Yet everywhere we read afterward in the press that the
students were in this for a lark ("civil rights panty raid"), or for a jape
against the older generation.**
Around 6:30, in
response to appeals from the car top, a new wave of students who had been standing around
the periphery decided to sit down. The irregular outline of the sit-down area extended a
pseudopod closer to the police fortress that had once been the administration building.
The sitters now numbered about 500. Night was falling.
Hall, the students' negotiating committee was considering a proposed agreement and adding
a couple of points to those drafted by the faculty mediators. Kerr and Strong were in one
room, the students in another discussing among themselves, and the faculty people
literally acted as go-betweens .
One of the moves
by the president had been to threaten the student negotiators with the unleashing of the
police: at one point he gave them ten minutes to sign. This backfired; and Kerr assured
them he would request the police not to move until the negotiations were over and the
students had returned to the demonstration to report. But he insisted that he did not
control the police, that the chiefs were restive, and that they might decide at some point
to overrule him.***
Point 1 as drafted
originally read: "The student demonstrators promise to abide by legal processes in
their protest of university regulations." The students rejected this unlimited
promise, and compromised on a statement which merely meant that the present
demonstration would be lifted: "The student demonstrators shall desist from
all forms of illegal protest against university regulations."
In return for
this, three concessions were accepted by the students:
2. A committee
representing students (including leaders of the demonstration), faculty and administration
will immediately be set up to conduct discussions and hearings into all aspects of
political behavior on campus and its control, and to make recommendations to the
3. The arrested
man will be booked, released on his own recognizance and the university will not press
4. The duration of
the suspension of the suspended students will be submitted within one week to the Student
Conduct Committee of the Academic Senate.
Point 4 stated
that the suspension cases would be put in the hands, not of the administration-appointed
"Faculty Committee on Student Conduct," but of a committee of the Academic
Senate which is autonomous of the administration. In addition the faculty mediators orally
assured the student negotiators that it was understood the suspensions would be lifted
Two more points
were added to the agreement:
5. Activity may be
continued by student organizations in accordance with university regulations.
6. The President
of the University has declared his willingness to support deeding certain university
property at the end of Telegraph Avenue to the City of Berkeley or to the ASUC. [This
refers to the 26-foot sidewalk strip on Bancroft.]
signatures were affixed to the pact plus the signature of Clark Kerr. (Chancellor Strong
did not sign.) The opposing sides, with their respective armies mobilized outside on the
field, had signed a formal armistice -- administration and students in "eyeball to
eyeball" confrontation It is doubtful that a similar scene had ever been enacted on
an American campus before.
It was now 7:30,
an hour and a half past the deadline originally set by the planners of the operation. The
negotiating committee returned to the plaza, and Mario Savio, now in glare of television
camera lights, mounted the police car for the last time to present the Pact of October 2,
to explain its provisions and why it had been accepted. Indicating serious dubiety in the
minds of the student committee about the terms of the pact, he announced that there would
be an open disc cussion meeting in Sproul Hall Plaza on Monday where views would be aired.
Then he asked the students to leave the area "with dignity."
The police code
938 (cancel assignment) was flashed to the waiting units; the Oakland motorcycle cops
roared away; the sheriff's troops formed ranks in Barrows Lane in the cool night air. The
sitters arose and stretched. The crowd broke up and disintegrated, but knots of students
gathered to discuss whether the pact should have been accepted. A couple of blocks away at
the campus Greek Theater, a concert by Joan Baez was due to start after eight. We had
bought tickets a week before, and the pact had come in the nick of time. In the open-sky
circle of the theater, Joan Baez came on stage and said: "It's a fine night. The
students have won. And I'm glad."
* Dr. Sidney Hook
was going to raise his hands in horror at this situation in the N.Y. Times Magazine
(Jan. 3, 1965), since it showed (my italics) "the extremism of the student
leaders, the lengths to which they were willing to go -- at one point, bloodshed and
possible loss of life seemed imminent ..." How extremist of the students to compel
the police to attack them carrying guns and tear gas! As the French saying has it:
"set animal est si mechant: Quand on l'attaque, il se defend!" or This animal's
vicious, and that's a fact: He defends himself when he's attacked!" The FSM
Newsletter later had a more philosophical comment: a cartoon showed a phalanx of
burly cops, clubs at the ready and hands on gun-butts, giving the students the following
advice: "De ends don't justify de means!'
** A questionnaire
was later distributed to those who had taken any part in the October 1-2 demonstrations,
not necessarily by sitting down. Only 618 were filled -- not a reliable cross section and
probably weighted toward the more committed individuals. The results: over 70 per cent
belong to no campus political organization; half had never before participated in any
*** Among the
errors in the Lipset-Seabury article in The Reporter, Jan. 28, 1965, was the statement
that Kerr "had authority over them [the police]." Kerr himself stressed that
this was not so. What is involved here is the argument by some faculty people like
Professors Lipset and Feuer that the FSM demands would open the campus to the police. They
ignore the fact that police invaded the campus twice, with authority not subject to the
generation of student activists also has a new tactic -- civil disobedience. The technique
was developed for Alabama and Mississippi but is easily transferred. I misjudged the FSM's
willingness to use this tactic. When we didn't give in to their early demands, they went
to civil disobedience like that! They set up tables, they blocked the police car, they sat
in. They took us completely by surprise. (Clark Kerr, in Jan. 5 interview.)
What took the
administration completely by surprise, then, was the unexpected militancy and
unconventionality) of the students' fighting style. But there was far more about the
"new generation of student activists" that the administrators did not
understand. And it was even more of a mystery to the newspaper commentators who could
oscillate only between "college kids on a tear" and "sinister Communist
administrators, like the press and the outside community, saw the protest as not much more
than "a civil rights panty raid," as one administrator put it. The bearded,
sandalled, longhaired students in the protest took on a great prominence in their eyes.
Their rebellion against the administration, they believed, was no different than their
rebellion against the conventions of dress and appearance. They did not take the political
motives of the demonstrators very seriously. Some members of the administration, on the
other hand, saw the demonstrations as anything but frivolous. In fact, they saw in them
wider implications and broader goals than the students' professed aim of free speech. They
saw them as the beginning of an attempt to turn Berkeley into a Latin American style
university, where the students have a major, if not a predominant, say in determining all
aspects of university life and policy. The leaders of the FSM, they believed, wanted to
harness the student movement and the university itself to the cause of the particular
social and political changes they sought. (Graduate Political Scientists' Report.)
who saw only the specter of "beatniks" and "Communists" can be
forgiven, since the press fed them little else. Photographers in some cases deliberately
sought out the one or two bearded, longhaired students in a group; this was
"color," and the majority of "respectable" looking boys and girls in
the crowd were not news. That the administrators operated on basically the same
intellectual level, however, was a more serious matter.
the administration and the students immediately after the Pact of October 2 were severely
complicated by the redbaiting in which Kerr engaged.
Two San Francisco
dailies quoted him on October 3 as saying that "Forty-nine per cent of the hard-core
group are followers of the Castro-Mao line," but Kerr denied the accuracy of this
quotation when asked personally and also later (December 1) denied it in the Daily Cal;
there is no record, however, that he ever sent a public denial to the papers themselves.
He had the benefit of letting the Hearst press's readership think him a properly
"hard" Communist-slayer while shaking off responsibility for the slander before
the campus community.
sending in letters, he replied by enclosing an editorial from the Los Angeles Times
as "a good analysis of a complex situation." The editorial charged that the
demonstrators "were doing their best to embarrass the university and create 'martyrs'
for a cause that probably had little to do with the issue of free speech or the right to
petition," and that "about half [of the activist group] reportedly weren't
students at all, but off-campus meddlers." This editorial, which Kerr personally
circulated, would leave little doubt of what off-campus meddlers' "cause" was
being hinted at. Kerr was also quoted in the press -- accurately -- as saying that
"some elements have been impressed with the tactics of Fidel Castro and Mao
Tse-tung." (He went on to add: "There are very - few of these, but there are
some." This was literally true: there were very few; but in that case, what exactly
was the point? There were also "very few" Goldwaterites, for example.)
A student neatly
answered Kerr's implication that the students' tactics were borrowed from Castro or Mao,
in a letter to the Daily Cal. He was glad to learn, he said ironically, that the
Castroites had won in Cuba because they merely "picketed Batista's headquarters, set
up illegal tables on the streets of Havana, and held sit-down demonstrations in front of
tanks, singing freedom songs while waiting for the police to take them away." As we
have seen, Kerr later found out that the students' tactics had been transferred from
"Alabama and Mississippi."
On October 6 in
Los Angeles, Kerr continued the barrage by telling a news conference that "up to 40
per cent of the hard-core participants" came from off-campus; he identified them as
"very experienced and professional people ... tied with organizations having
Communist influences." These base less charges were repeated on Kerr's authority by
others, such as the president of Stanford University, and by the state and national
The relation of
radicalism to the FSM will be considered later, but it may be pointed out here that the
real meaning of Kerr's esoteric reference to Mao and Castro followers was not generally
appreciated. What it meant implicitly was that Kerr knew and admitted that the Communist
Party -- the minuscule one existing in the Bay Area, not the one in Cuba or China --
had decisively nothing to do with the outbreak of the student movement.
What many students
resented particularly was the idea that the Communists should be given the credit for what
they themselves had accomplished. It was another example of the fact that the Communists
could depend on the red-baiters for their biggest boosts.
With the exception
of Kerr and of the inevitable hoarse cries from Birchite and Republican-rightist
politicians and editors, there were remarkably few in the situation who even hinted at
"Communist domination" of the FSM. Even the Reporter account by Professors
Lipset and Seabury limited itself to the insinuation that "the use of illegal tactics
was part of a conscious effort by extremists to undermine faith in the democratic
system." The main exception was Professor Lewis Feuer, who, swinging from the floor,
charged that political and social activism on the campus was "a melange of narcotics,
sexual perversion, collegiate Castroism, and campus Maoism," in the best style of
Billy Hargis, and that the FSM was a "Soviet-style coalition." But then -- Feuer
even came close to redbaiting Kerr himself, whose view of the Multiversity he dislikes:
Kerr, he wrote, is "almost a 'neo-Marxist' in his conception of the modern
university's development," and his basic theory "converges strikingly with
dialectical materialism"! **
But this runs
ahead of our story.
* Kerr later
exonerated himself of the redbaiting charge in the following disingenuous terms. Replying
to the "claim" that "the administration engaged in making improper
charges," he answered: "I did say in October that, among the outsiders who
turned up, some had been sympathetic with Communist causes. I consider this a statement of
fact." But the pretense that this was all he had said, is not a statement of fact.
"Rebellion at Berkeley," New Leader, December 21,
17 The FSM Is
Up to this point,
the student protest had been organized and led by a United Front of clubs. On the weekend
after the pact, representatives of the clubs met and constituted the Free Speech Movement.
It was conceived
of as a temporary fighting formation, not a permanent organization. The body of club
representatives became the Executive Committee, and a smaller Steering Committee was
elected as the day-to-day leadership. All were students; including suspended students,
with the exception of Jack Weinberg.
representation to the large number of students participating who were not members of any
of the constituent clubs, a meeting was called for "Independents," attended by
several hundreds, who elected representatives. A meeting called specifically for graduate
students also elected representatives, and evolved into the Graduate Coordinating
Committee. Separate recognition was accorded to the supporting non-students (largely
student drop-outs) in the campus community, who were called to a meeting and got a
representative too. Representatives were added also from religious organizations.
Committee, from October 10 on, consisted usually of ten to twelve members; the composition
of the Executive Committee, with a membership in the fifties, also tended to fluctuate
with the vicissitudes of the movement, as individuals dropped or assumed activity, and as
groups (such as the Republicans) popped in and out of the structure. At the time the FSM
was formed, the conservatives refused to join, although invited into both the Executive
Committee and the Steering Committee.
work and life of the FSM was as fine an example of the organized-disorganized-unorganized
as it ispossible to imagine. The description of the movement as"highly
efficient" by Lipset-Seabury and others is a testimonial to the impact of the FSM on
the campus, but the knowledgeable description would have been only "remarkably
effective." Especially at critical junctures, the organization of the FSM was often
spontaneously ordered chaos.
The pattern of
October 1-2 was partially operative even after the FSM was formally constituted. There
were remarkable feats of what-appeared-to-be-organization accomplished during those two
days: obtaining, setting up and servicing various items of loudspeaker equipment; canteen
services; mass telephone campaigns; fund-raising (over $800 was collected right in the
plaza), etc. But there was virtually no over-all organization.
accomplished because hundreds of students threw themselves into the work spontaneously and
somehow did it in clots of organization, with a furious amount talk but also with
overweening energy and will. Anyone could become a "leader," and the process was
very simple and very visible: you led, and if you seemed to be doing any good others
followed with a will. This was true not only in the background tasks but also up front, on
top of the car.
After the first
week of the FSM's formal existence, the many jobs to be done were decentralized into
separate working units called "centrals," set up in various students' apartments
or other places. In the course of time there were Work Central, Legal Central, Press
Central, Information Central Newsletter Central, Archives Central, Picket Central, Command
Central -- and I seem to remember talk of a "Central Central." The speedy
expansion of the FSM "bureaucracy" was a standing joke among the students, but,
in my own contacts with the result, "efficiency" is the last word that would
occur to me. A better approximation of the ambience can be gained from reading parts of
John Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World.
"revolution" has been mainly applied to the Berkeley events by appalled
observers rather than by FSM supporters, but the kernel of truth in the phrase lies in
this: there was a massive upheaval from below, mounting in waves from the police-car
blockade to the December sit-in and strike, which hurled hundreds and at some points
thousands of newly energized students, previously non-political and nonactivist, into the
conflict. It was literally a rising, if some overtones of this word are
eliminated. Outsiders are likely to consider this a literary exaggeration, but, as the
quotations preceding this history indicate, the authorities on the spot are not among
All of this was
financed mainly through "passing the hat" among students, faculty and university
staff, plus some parents and local businessmen. '1he total expenditure of the FSM, from
its organization on October 3 to the present (December 10)," says the Graduate
Political Scientists' Report, "was approximately $2,000," spent almost
entirely on publications leaflets and other printing, loudspeaker equipment, meeting
places, telephone, postage. This does not include the sums later collected by faculty
people for bail money, nor the still later defense funds necessitated by the mass arrests.
As revolutions go,
it was not expensive, except of time and heart.
-- end of chapter 17 --
We plan to have more chapters available.
We are looking for volunteers to help us scanning and proofreading the remaining 26
chapters of Hal Draper's book as well as many other documents in our archives. If you'd
like to help (and you don't need to be in Berkeley to do this) please email us about what you might do.