Wednesday, October 1, 2014

50 years ago on this day: Jack Weinberg made his stand for free speech

The Berkeley Free Speech Movement was inspired by the struggle for civil rights and later by opposition to the Vietnam War. The students at the University of California at Berkeley sent a steady stream of "freedom riders" to the Deep South, and they recruited them from information tables set up on the UCB campus, at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue.

UCB Campus authorities tried to shut them down. The president of the university banned all political organizing on campus, but the students refused to give up their rights to free speech and assembly.  On October 1, 1964, a 24-year-old former graduate student named Jack Weinberg was sitting at the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) table distributing literature.  Peacefully.  He refused to show his identification to the campus police when they demanded it, and he was arrested.  They dragged him to a police car, but 3,000 students surrounded the police car and refused to let it move. They refused to let the police take Weinberg to jail. They stood on top of the police car and gave speeches about the First Amendment and Free Speech.  The car did not move for a day and a half, 32 hours.  The car did not move, and the students did not abandon it, until the charges against Weinberg were dropped.

That event galvanized the Free Speech Movement.  It marked the first major salvo in the war launched by the Free Speech Movement. 

Without resistance from the public, the government, doing the will of its corporate masters, will take and take and take, until the people have nothing left to give away.

Jack Weinberg is 74 years old now.  I wonder what he thinks about today's US government's attempts to curtail free speech and to violently suppress peaceful protests.
Jack Weinberg in police car, Oct. 1, 1964