Hal Draper


Berkeley: The New Student Revolt


8. The Clubs Fight Back

The “off-campus” clubs formed a United Front on September 17 to protest the new rules. It consisted of some 20 organizations: civil-rights groups, radical and socialist groups, religious and peace groups, Young Democrats, and all three Republican clubs (including Youth for Goldwater) plus another right-wing conservative society. The conservatives’ campus publication Man and State later summarized:

The new regulations were immediately opposed by all campus political organizations ... The initial conversations with the administration left no doubt but that the regulations were a result of outside pressure and were intended to stop any political activity on campus ... The negotiations failed.

Right across the political board from left to right, not one of the clubs felt that the administration was set on “reasonable discussion.”

Next day, the United Front submitted a request to the dean for restoration of the tables, agreeing to a number of conditions regulating their use. On the first day of classes, September 21, Dean Towle met with them and unleashed Version 2 of the regulations. The student representatives thanked her for the improvement and replied that it was not enough. By noon that day the first protest demonstration unrolled before Sproul Hall: a picket line of 200 carrying signs such as “Bomb the Ban” and “UC Manufactures Safe Minds.”

The most surprising aspect of yesterday’s picketing was the relatively large numbers of non-activists who joined the picket line, took a few turns in front of Sproul, and then turned their sign over to others. (Daily Cal, Sept. 22.)

In addition, tables were set up (with permits) but proceeded: to offer “advocative” material in defiance of the order. All the clubs had agreed on the previous evening that no one of them would move its table to the city-owned strip – now labeled the “fink area.” Even the conservatives agreed on this measure of solidarity, though not on setting up tables in violation of the rules. A Daily Cal editorial warned, “Campus administrators are making a mistake,” though it urged moderation in protest. The next day even the ASUC Senate addressed a request to the Regents “to allow free political and social action,” etc.

On the night of the 23rd there was a “Free Speech Vigil” on Sproul Hall steps, beginning 9 P.M. – about three hundred strong. In response to a report that Kerr and the Regents were meeting at University House, the group decided, after a quarter-hour discussion and a vote, to march there, walk around for five minutes and leave. “The single-file procession stretched a quarter mile, and was called remarkable for its orderliness,” reported the Daily Cal. (This note, surprise at the self-disciplined orderliness, was to be struck by all unbiased observers from here on.) All Regents having left, except the secretary, a letter of appeal to the board was composed and left. Back at Sproul Hall, some 75 students composed themselves till morning, when they greeted the arrivals with singing.

On September 28 the United Front opened the throttle a little more. “Advocative” tables were set up at Sather Gate itself, since the new rules were supposed to be campus-wide now. At 11 A.M. Chancellor Strong was scheduled to open an official university meeting to present awards, in the Lower Plaza. The United Front held a rally in Dwinelle Plaza to group its forces, and then marched as a picket line to the chancellor’s meeting (where, incidentally, Strong unexpectedly announced Version 3 of the rules). Against the instructions of one of the deans, the picket line went down the aisles as well as around the perimeter.

It was a strange scene: there were at least 1,000 picketers – 1,500 according to one paper – and there were probably not quite that many students attending the official meeting. Two of the student leaders, including Mario Savio of SNCC, were threatened with disciplinary action; some of the clubs were given warnings.

On September 29 the dean’s staff began making hourly checks of violations, and at first found the students “cooperative,” with the exception of one Slate student. In the afternoon SNCC set up a table in violation of the rules.


Last updated on 27.8.2006