berkeley free speech movement

The Jewish participation in the radical student movements of the 1960s and early 1970s was comparable to the Jewish participation in Eastern European socialism and prewar American Communism. In the first half of the 1960s, Jews (5 percent of all American students) made up between 30 and 50 percent of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) membership and more than 60 percent of its leadership; six out of eleven Steering Committee members of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley; one-third of the Weathermen arrested by the police; 50 percent of the membership of California’s Peace and Freedom Party; two-thirds of the white Freedom Riders who went to the South in 1961 to fight racial segregation; one-third to one-half of the “Mississippi Summer” volunteers of 1964 (and two of the three murdered martyrs); 45 percent of those who protested the release of students’ grades to draft boards at the University of Chicago; and 90 percent of the sample of radical activists studied by Joseph Adelson at the University of Michigan. In 1970, in the wake of the invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four students at Kent State (three of whom were Jewish), 90 percent of the Jewish students attending schools at which there were demonstrations claimed to have participated. In a 1970 nationwide poll, 23 percent of all Jewish college students identified themselves as “far left” (compared to 4 percent of Protestants and 2 percent of Catholics); and a small group of radical activists studied at the University of California was found to be 83 percent Jewish. A large study of student radicalism conducted by the American Council of Education in the late 1960s found that a Jewish background was the single most important predictor of participation in protest activities

Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
Anarchist rampage in Berkeley renews free speech debate
Hundreds of masked, black-clad anarchists who overwhelmed a peaceful California protest and assaulted at least five perceived political enemies have reignited the debate over ensuring free speech while protecting public safety in the city where the U.S. free speech movement was born in the 1960s.
By ABC News

“After planned weekend rallies were violently disrupted or canceled, supporters of President Donald Trump and other politically conservative activists complained their free speech rights were blocked by liberal politicians who they say incited left-wing extremists.

When Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson canceled his San Francisco rally Saturday, he blamed San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Democratic U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi for falsely labeling the organization as a hate group and inciting extremism to vow violent disruption.

Others said that the violence on Sunday in nearby Berkeley, known as the U.S. heart of the free speech movement, tarnished their peaceful opposition to Trump’s policies.

“It played into the false narrative that some conservatives have spun,” about violent left-wing stifling of free speech, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said Monday, a day after the anarchists assaulted the people they thought were right-wing extremists and pepper sprayed Gibson.

Gibson’s supporters said the Berkeley police failed to protect the handful of right-wing supporters who showed up at the park Sunday afternoon by allowing the black-clad demonstrators to take over the city park without opposition. The right-wing group was outnumbered by thousands of opponents, but the rally was tense but peaceful until the anarchists arrived.

Several demonstrators tried to stop the violence and helped the assault victims escape while others screamed for the beating to stop.

The attack on the conservatives at the Berkeley park “definitely sends the wrong message,” said Ed Tisher, who came to oppose them but ended up helping a Trump supporter knocked to the ground and shielding him from more possible violence until police arrived.

Yvonne Felarca, a spokeswoman for the militant left-wing organization By Any Means Necessary, defended Sunday’s violence. She called it self-defense, though it there were no indications anyone one tried to physically harm the anarchists at the park.

She said right-wing extremists are often armed and want to fight left-wing opponents, concluding that Sunday’s violence was a “success” and sent a message that speech her group considers fascist will not be allowed in ultraliberal Berkeley

Felarca was charged last month with assault and helping incite a riot in Sacramento last year. The June 2016 melee between about 30 members of a neo-Nazi group and 300 counter-protesters ended with 14 people suffering stab wounds, cuts and bruises.

Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said he ordered officers to abandon the park when the black-clad activists arrived. Confronting them would have risked escalating the violence and jeopardizing the safety of the peaceful protesters, Greenwood said.

The mayor said the police acted appropriately, saying the anarchists “were trying to provoke the police.

“Protecting a piece of grass in that situation was not worth it,” Arreguin said.

Sid Heal, president of California Association of Tactical Officers representing police trained in riot control, said it’s “always a tough call” officers to determine how to react when they respond to a crowd on the verge of a riot.

He said he usually advises officers to aggressively arrest people obviously intent on violence like those carrying gas masks or sticks who have covered their faces. Using heavy barriers that cannot be used by protesters as battering rams is also advisable, Heal said.

Berkeley police initially used both strategies, quickly arresting people who covered their faces or brought into the park items that could have been used as weapons. Police also set up water filled, plastic barriers to keep political opponents separated.

But Berkeley’s police chief said he changed tactics after several hours and pulled officers out of the park when it became clear that only a handful of conservative activists remained there.

Heal, who helped the University of California, Berkeley, prepare for unrest ahead of an appearance by the politically conservative author Ann Coulter in April, said he believe it was the right decision.

“I wouldn’t fight over a piece of land that has no value,” Heal said.

Coulter canceled that appearance out of concern for violence but blamed the university for failing to ensure safety for conservative speakers.

The campus is bracing for the appearances of former conservative Breitbart News editors Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos and other politically polarizing figures next month during two separate events, including a “free speech week.”

The campus canceled a Yiannopoulos speech in February after demonstrations turned violent.

Newly appointed University of California, Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ said the campus would be prepared.

“The university has the responsibility to provide safety and security for its community and guests, and we will invest the necessary resources to achieve that goal,” she said in a statement.


On the police brutality at last nights #Berkeleyprotests

I know that this is a nonviolence-toward-animals blog that I started for my peace and conflict studies class at Berkeley, but this simply cannot be ignored. I am after all a UC Berkeley student, and I was a participant in last night’s (December 6th 2014) protest. This post is solely about the police brutality of last night’s protests, and doesn’t even begin to touch on the injustices being protested.

I can’t speak for individuals or small groups who threw rocks or other things into store windows or at officers early on. I did not see them. I can’t speak for protestors who allegedly initiated any sort of violence. I did not see them. During my participation in the protest, I saw hundreds of people, a huge amount of which were students, peacefully standing their ground.

I got to the protest on Telegraph and Channing at about 11 pm last night with two friends, Mario and Joy. Officers stood in full riot gear, batons entirely out and in their hands at the ready. They lined the intersection, forcing protestors apart. In the back of my mind I still was holding on the belief that there was no way would Berkeley police use police brutality on students. At the start, I still felt relatively safe. After all this was Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement almost exactly 50 years ago. The first place that comes to mind when people think “liberal” and “progressive”. Hell, we just taxed sugary drinks. If any protest was to be relatively free of police brutality, I truly wanted it to be Berkeley’s. Instead I ended the night shaken, tear gassed, physically assaulted, with eyes wide open and a phone full of footage.

We stayed at Telegraph and Channing for a while, entirely peaceful. At one point a student jogging approached the police line to ask to pass for entrance into his apartment, and before he could even get within a foot of them and officer shoved him forcefully back into the crowd with his baton. Not long after that an officer got on the megaphone to announce our gathering was an unlawful assembly and that we had to disperse immediately. They started to march us backwards. At first they just pushed as a line, batons in front of them to move the crowd forward. But as students resisted or asked why they were being forced to move, the tension was turned up a notch. Mario, Joy and I stood near the front, moving down Telegraph with the crowd and constantly filming. All of a sudden everything happened so fast. Officers moved from swinging batons and stepping forward to actively charging us, grabbing students and beating them along with other students who couldn’t step back fast enough. We started running as officers grabbed homeless people, camped on sidewalks, and violently shoved them to the side. Next to us, a girl had a seizure induced by the flash bangs and fell to the floor. People trying to help her up were beat by the police with batons and pulled out of the crowd. As they held the line for a moment, zip-tying those they had arrested, the protest line held strong. At the intersection people screamed and demanded to know why the officers had charged us. You have to understand that the protestors DID NOT turn to violence first. Even when being beat, many didn’t actively fight back.

At the intersection of Telegraph and Ashby (it may have been a few streets up, I can’t remember) protestors once again peacefully regrouped. Suddenly officers charged us, batons swinging, rubber bullets fired and tear gas canisters along with smoke grenades thrown. We started moving, at this point we were so close to the officer line that we ran, tear gas streaming around us as protestors shouted “We can’t breathe”. At one point we, along with other students, started to turn down a street only to realize it was a dead end. I have never felt so afraid to be trapped with a line of police officers behind me. Luckily we moved out of there before officers caught up with us. But this is essentially what happened for hours. Protestors held the line. Officers came out swinging and tear gassing, forcing us down and down until they had pushed us into Oakland and we were only a fraction of the starting group as people had been separated off at each intersection. Once we got to Oakland the officers had run out of jurisdiction, they threw tens of tear gas canisters at us to try to disperse us.

The unjustified actions of officers last night’s were appalling. We were beat for trying to help others up. We were told to disperse but blocked off with near no way out. At one point I heard a girl repeatedly shout “Please don’t kill me” to the officer hitting her. All of this from the men and women meant to protect us. It was other protesters and civilians who came out of their homes to help those injured. Apartments and dorms opened up their lobbies to let some victims in. Protestors shared their milk with other tear gas victims.

And yet so far every major article about last nights protests reads something along the lines: “Two officers injured as protestors turned violent”, “Protestors become unruly”, “Protests turn dangerous for police officers”. The violence or rioting from individuals was small isolated incidents. The rest of the protestors were completely peaceful which is why the police reaction was so uncalled for. The media’s portrayal of last night’s protest does the entire world a disservice.

For everyone protesting out there tonight and in the future: bring milk, bring jackets, bring bandanas, bring phones. Film everything. Hold them accountable. And most importantly stay together, stay safe, stay woke, stay peaceful.

My videos:

Videos from other protestors:

Berkeley vs. Big Soda

I was phoned the other night in middle of dinner by an earnest young man named Spencer, who said he was doing a survey.

Rather than hang up I agreed to answer his questions. He asked me if I knew a soda tax would be on the ballot in Berkeley in November. When I said yes, he then asked whether I trusted the Berkeley city government to spend the revenues wisely.

At that moment I recognized a classic “push poll,” which is part of a paid political campaign.

So I asked Spencer a couple of questions of my own. Who was financing his survey? “Americans for Food and Beverage Choice,” he answered. Who was financing this group? “The American Beverage Association,” he said.

Spencer was so eager to get off the phone I didn’t get to ask him my third question: Who’s financing the American Beverage Association? It didn’t matter. I knew the answer: Pepsico and Coca Cola.

Welcome to Berkeley, California: Ground Zero in the Soda Wars.

Fifty years ago this month, Berkeley was the epicenter of the Free Speech Movement. Now, Berkeley is moving against Big Soda.

The new movement isn’t nearly dramatic or idealistic as the old one, but the odds of victory were probably better fifty years ago. The Free Speech Movement didn’t challenge the profitability of a one of the nation’s most powerful industries.

Sugary drinks are blamed for increasing the rates of chronic disease and obesity in America. Yet efforts to reduce their consumption through taxes or other measures have gone nowhere. The beverage industry has spent millions defeating them.

If on November 4 a majority of Berkeley voters say yes to a one-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax on distributors of sugary drinks, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass a soda tax. (San Franciscans will be voting on a 2-cent per ounce proposal requiring two-thirds of them approve; Berkeley needs a mere majority.)

But if a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere. Big Soda knows that, which is why it’s determined to kill it here.

Taxing a product to reduce its consumption has been effective with cigarettes. According to the American Cancer Society, every 10 percent increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes has caused a 4 percent decline in the rate of smoking.

And for years cigarette manufacturers waged an all-ought war to prevent any tax or regulation. They eventually lost, and today it’s hard to find anyone who proudly smokes.

Maybe that’s the way the Soda Wars will end, too. Consumption of sugary soft drinks is already down somewhat from what it was ten years ago, but kids (and many adults) are still guzzling it.

Berkeley’s Soda War pits a group of community organizations, city and school district officials, and other individuals (full disclosure: I’m one of them) against Big Soda’s own “grassroots” group, describing itself as “a coalition of citizens, local businesses, and community organizations” without identifying its members.

Even though a Field Research poll released in February found 67 percent of California voters (and presumably a similar percentage of Berkeley voters) favor a soda tax if revenues are spent on healthy initiatives, it will be an uphill fight.

Since 2009, some thirty special taxes on sugary drinks have been introduced in various states and cities, but none has passed. Not even California’s legislature, with Democratic majorities in both houses, could enact a proposal putting warning labels on sodas.

Even New York City’s former and formidable mayor Michael Bloomberg – no slouch when it came to organizing – lost to Big Soda. He wanted to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants and other venues to16 ounces.

But the beverage industry waged a heavy marketing campaign against the proposal, including ads featuring the Statue of Liberty holding up a giant soda instead of a torch. It also fought it through the courts. Finally the state’s highest court ruled that the city’s Board of Health overstepped its authority by imposing the cap.

Fifty years ago, Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement captured the nation’s attention and imagination. It signaled a fundamental shift in the attitudes of young Americans toward older forms of authority.

Times have changed. Four years ago the Supreme Court decided corporations were people under the First Amendment, entitled to their own freedom of speech. Since then, Big Soda has poured a fortune into defeating ballot initiatives to tax or regulate sugared drinks.

But have times changed all that much? In its battle with Big Soda, Berkeley may once again make history.

Watch on

“We asked the following: if President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn’t he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received – from a well-meaning liberal – was the following: He said, "Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?” That’s the answer!

Now, I ask you to consider: if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the board of directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I’ll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw material[s] that don’t mean to have any process upon us, don’t mean to be made into any product, don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!“

I reblogged a quote of the final paragraph a little bit ago. Here’s the rest of it.


Mario Savio: Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all” - Mario Savio