Mass Arrests during U.C. Berkeley Free Speech Protest
The 1960s are remembered as a time of protests and demonstrations, especially in support of civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. One of the galvanizing events of that entire era occurred on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley on Dec. 3, 1964. Hundreds of police officers surrounded Sproul Hall, the university’s administrative building, where nearly a thousand demonstrators were staging a sit-in to support free speech and political rights. Shortly after 3:00 that morning, the police moved in and began emptying Sproul Hall. Over the next 12 hours more than 800 demonstrators, most of them students, were arrested. Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM), which had started earlier that fall, was now in full swing.
At the center of the FSM was a 21-year-old junior majoring in philosophy, Mario Savio. The main focus of his and other student activists’ protests in the fall of 1964 was to support the civil rights movement. (The campus movement against the Vietnam War started up the following spring.) On Oct. 1, 1964, police had arrested Jack Weinberg, who was staffing a table recruiting supporters for the civil rights group Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) on the edge of the Berkeley campus. When the police placed Weinberg in a squad car, hundreds of students—Savio among them—surrounded the car, sat down, and for 32 hours refused to leave. Savio gained fame by climbing onto the police car—after first carefully removing his shoes—to passionately urge the crowd to stay together and remain united.
Tensions mounted between university officials and student leaders, especially the four “leaders” of the FSM: Mario Savio, Arthur Goldberg, his sister Jackie Goldberg, and Brian Turner. In November the university announced new, tighter restrictions limiting recruitment and fundraising activities on campus for political causes. The university also took disciplinary action against the four FSM leaders, demanding they appear before the faculty committee for student conduct to be punished for violating university regulations.
That was the background for what happened on the campus of U.C. Berkeley on Dec. 2-3, 1964. At noon on December 2 Savio led a rally in front of Sproul Hall attended by 3,000 to 4,000 students. The folk singer Joan Baez was there, as she often was at events promoting freedom and the civil rights movement, lending her voice, talent and presence in support of the students’ cause. Both she and Savio emphasized to the crowd the importance of being peaceful, loving and non-violent while demonstrating for their rights. For an hour the crowd listened to speeches and sang folk songs, then several thousand of them occupied Sproul Hall. They wanted greater free speech rights to espouse political causes on campus, and they wanted the disciplinary procedure against the four FSM leaders dropped.
About a thousand students occupied Sproul Hall for the night. No one was expecting any trouble. The police had locked the doors at 7:00 p.m., Joan Baez had left, and the students settled in for a fun night of singing, watching movies and merrymaking.
Then in the wee hours of the morning the police moved in and began making arrests, galvanizing the 1960s student protest movement. When arrested the students objected by going limp, forcing the police to drag them out of the building. Although there later were some claims of police brutality, most accounts say the police were restrained.
The following five newspaper articles are about the events on Berkeley’s campus on Dec. 2-3, 1964. The first two describe the December 2 rally and student decision to occupy Sproul Hall. The third article describes the police moving in and arresting the demonstrators on December 3. The fourth describes how a faculty group stepped forward after the arrests to support the students, demanding that Chancellor Edward W. Strong be fired. The fifth article is an editorial assessing the situation.
This first article is a short account of the Sproul Hall occupation. This copyrighted article was published by the Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas) on the front page of its Dec. 3, 1964, issue:
Students Locked in Building
Berkeley, Calif. (AP)—About 1,000 demonstrating students invaded the University of California’s Sproul Hall Wednesday in a massive sit-in and were locked inside the building at nightfall.
Campus police locked the doors at 7 p.m. and gave students one hour to clear the building.
Leaders of the defiant group renewed their pledge to remain until disciplinary action was dropped against four self-styled free speech leaders.
Mario Savio, 21, Manhattan-born philosophy junior and leader of the rebels, grasped a megaphone and began instructions on passive resistance as the doors were locked.
Savio and folk singer Joan Baez had led the march into the hall following a rally on Sproul Hall steps. Some 3,000 to 4,000 of the university’s 27,400 students attended the rally outside the administrative center.
Police manned the doors to let students leave and keep others out.
This second article, another account of the Sproul Hall occupation, provides more information about the demonstrators’ demands. This copyrighted article was published by the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) on Dec. 3, 1964:
Cal Sit-In Seeks ‘Free Speech’ Rule
Berkeley, Calif. (AP)—Led by a defiant campus rebel, several hundred demonstrators invaded the University of California’s Sproul Hall yesterday. Their leader declared they would remain until disciplinary action was dropped against four self-styled free speech leaders.
Mario Savio, the rebel leader, was joined by folk singer Joan Baez in leading the march by demonstrators into Sproul Hall after they talked and sang for nearly an hour to a rally crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 outside the building. Sproul Hall is the Berkeley campus administrative center.
Savio, 21, a philosophy junior, told the crowd:
“We’re not going to break this up until we get what we want.”
Campus police made no effort to stop the demonstrators from entering the building.
A police spokesman said no immediate action was planned. He noted, however, that the building normally is closed at 5 p.m.
Savio, who was arrested last March as a Sheraton-Palace Hotel sit-in demonstrator for more Negro jobs, made clear that the demonstration’s major demand is the withdrawal of disciplinary action against four leaders of the Free Speech Movement (FSM).
Savio and the three others were notified this week that they would be summoned before the faculty committee on student conduct for violation of university regulations.
The others are Arthur Goldberg, his sister, Jackie Goldberg, and Brian Turner.
All participated in the Oct. 1-2 sit-in demonstration in Sproul Hall during which demonstrators occupied a police car through the night and used it as a speaking rostrum.
Other demands outlined by Savio in the new demonstration included:
• An end to regulations “which needlessly restrict students or their organizations in the exercise of on-campus political rights.”
• No further disciplinary action be taken until the administration reaches a settlement with FSM.
The university’s board of regents on Nov. 19 declared this policy for campus political activity:
“Certain campus facilities, carefully selected and properly regulated, may be used by students and staff for planning, implementing, or raising funds or recruiting participants for lawful off-campus action, not for unlawful off-campus action.”
The regents in another resolution reaffirmed their policy that all students and student organizations “obey the laws of the state and community.”
This copyrighted article about the arrest of the demonstrators was published by the Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) on Dec. 3, 1964:
Cops Unseat Campus Sit-In on Coast; Scores Arrested
Berkeley, Calif. (AP)—Police plowed into some 800 University of California students who staged an all-night sit-in inside the campus administration building today, made arrests and dragged limp students to waiting buses for a trip to the county prison farm.
Hundreds of students and faculty members of the 27,000-student campus packed the area as police, as many as four to a student, dragged the demonstrators through a thick cordon of police encircling Sproul Hall.
The demonstrations started when four students, leaders in an early October demonstration, were disciplined by the University. They had been seeking more political freedom for students.
It was the announcements of the citations against the four that touched off last night’s uprising.
On the second, third and fourth floors of the block-square building, students made no protest as officers pulled them away. The rebel students, who took over the building Wednesday night, were hauled into elevators where stenciled numbers were slapped on their chests. Police and commercial photographers took pictures of them and they were led outside.
Hundreds of Cops
Hundreds of police of the California Highway Patrol, the Oakland and Berkeley police departments, the Alameda County sheriff’s office and Berkeley campus converged on the building as the students refused a request to disperse peacefully.
Dr. Edward Strong, chancellor of the campus, told the students:
“This assemblage has developed to such a point that the purpose and the work of the university have been materially impaired. Acts of disobedience and illegality cannot be tolerated.”
Nine buses drove up outside as a cordon of police three deep circled the building. Police, who had been allowing reporters and photographers free access to the building, then refused to let anyone in or out.
The action followed an early morning statement by Gov. Edmund G. Brown calling for arrests, to uphold “the rule of law in California” in the Sproul Hall demonstration.
Reported as the first person arrested was Robert Treuhaft, the husband of Jessica Mitford, author of “The High Cost of Dying.” Treuhaft, not a student, walked into the building’s press room and was asked by a policeman to leave.
Treuhaft refused, said he had business there, and was taken into the basement to be photographed and fingerprinted.
The Berkeley campus students—determined to free four of their leaders from disciplinary action—remained inside the building (Sproul Hall) after the doors were locked.
Drop Those Charges!
Leaders of the group said they would not leave until disciplinary action was dropped against four self-styled free speech leaders.
Campus police warned students to leave after the building was locked at 7 p.m. but no arrests were made.
It turned into a fun-filled night for the demonstrators—complete with folk singing, Charlie Chaplin movies and assembly line sandwich counters.
This copyrighted article about the immediate aftermath of the arrests was published by the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) on the front page of its Dec. 4, 1964, issue:
801 Students in Sit-In Arrested to End Revolt
Berkeley, Calif. (AP)—With a mass sit-in siege ended by arrest of 801 demonstrators, the University of California’s president Thursday night declared “their demands for anarchy were rejected because freedom can exist only within a rule of law.”
The demonstration protested against new rules restricting political action for off-campus causes to designated and regulated campus areas.
“This nation is devoted to freedom under the law and not to anarchy under a willful minority whether that minority be radical students in the North or white supremacists in the South,” said Dr. Clark Kerr, head of the statewide university system.
His statement came soon after a faculty spokesman demanded the ouster of the Berkeley campus chancellor, Dr. Edward W. Strong.
The free speech movement is led by Mario Savio, New York east side native and philosophy junior. He says the group wants freedom to recruit members and collect funds anywhere on the campus for off-campus political action. The action chiefly has supported Negro civil rights causes.
A notice that Savio and three other campus rebel leaders were being summoned before the faculty committee on student conduct precipitated the second sit-in in two months at Sproul Hall in a bitter controversy over new university regulations restricting political activity to designated campus areas.
As the last student was taken from the debris-littered building, Prof. John H. Reynolds, Berkeley chapter chairman of the American Association of University Professors, issued the statement demanding the removal of Chancellor Edward W. Strong.
“The present crisis cannot be stilled unless there is a complete amnesty and a new chief campus official appointed who has the complete confidence of the university,” said the statement approved by the chapter’s board of directors.
Reynolds, physics professor, said ratification by the chapter’s full membership will be asked.
An emergency meeting of an estimated 500 faculty members adopted a resolution calling for “every effort…to end the series of provocations and reprisals which have resulted in disaster.”
The resolution offered by Dr. Henry F. May, history department chairman, urged that “new and liberalized rules for campus political activity” be put in effect and enforced.
It urged dropping all pending campus action against students and that an academic senate committee be created to rule finally on student appeals from administration penalties.
The faculty group sent Gov. Edmund G. Brown a telegram “strongly condemning the presence of the state highway patrol on the Berkeley campus.”
“Punitive action taken against hundreds of students cannot help to solve our current problem and will aggravate the already serious situation,” declared the faculty group’s protest to Brown.
“Only prompt release of the arrested students offers any prospect of restoring the unity of campus life and of a return to normal academic functions.”
Brown earlier declared in Sacramento that as long as he is governor of California “there will be no anarchy, and that is what has developed at the University of California.”
More than 500 officers toiled more than 12 hours dragging and carrying the demonstrators from Sproul Hall, the university’s administrative center. They persisted in defiance by going limp when arrested.
Karen Taylor, 24, of Rochester, N.Y., a senior in bacteriology, was the last student arrested. “This is only the beginning, the fight for freedom will continue,” she told newsmen.
The board of regents last Nov. 20 fully backed new regulations drafted by Strong and Clark Kerr.
These prescribe that recruiting and raising funds for lawful off-campus political action will be allowed only at “carefully selected and properly regulated” campus facilities.
They provide that campus areas cannot be used for raising funds or recruiting for unlawful off-campus action.
The university’s regulations were prompted by the arrests and convictions of several students last year in a series of San Francisco demonstrations for more jobs for Negroes.
Free speech movement leaders addressing a noon rally demanded that Kerr be fired as the university president.
Police dragged many of the demonstrators through Sproul’s debris-filled corridors. Those arrested were photographed, numbered and recorded by name.
This copyrighted editorial was published by the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) on Dec. 6, 1964:
The most unfortunate aspect of the student sit-in disturbances at University of California is that they might have been prevented by better communications and a more reasonable attitude all around.
As it is, the protest against alleged bars to free speech on the campus resulted in degrading actions which certainly didn’t improve this nation’s image abroad nor the U. of C.’s reputation at home.
It would be simple to confine the blame to the students whose conduct got disgracefully out of bounds when their protest against a restricted area for off-campus projects’ solicitations was not met satisfactorily. But the fact that several hundred faculty members joined in a post-disturbance criticism of university policy would indicate the subject at issue should have been more fully explored by the school administration. The authorities might have dissuaded the rebellious students from following the exhortations of the more rabid people among them or from taking the advice of those professional campus hangers-on who thrive on compounding trouble once it starts.
Dr. Clark Kerr, university chancellor, carries a national reputation as a labor arbitrator and is respected as one of the nation’s more progressive educators.
This makes the trouble at Berkeley, and the ensuing reaction from faculty members, all the more puzzling and all the more tragic.
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