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frespeech1This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Speech movement at the University of California, Berkeley. This was a movement that change the course of how we express ourselves publicly and the liberties that we have today to comment on politics, social issues, and information flow. For the most part, today we can express ourselves in any way we want while in other parts of the world you can be harassed by government or institutions, go to jail, or even be sentenced to death for not following guidelines or rules.  We have come a long ways and should not forget about milestones dates from our history.

freespeech2This movement started because of student frustration for not having a say on academic agendas, political issues and civil right movements while on campus. It was lead by  Mario Savio, Michael Rossman, Brian Turner, Bettina Aptheker, Steve Weissman, Art Goldberg, Jackie Goldberg, and others. One of the things to remember about the movement and many other movements of this type, is the courage of its leaders and the ability to improvise as they went. Many times things happen at the spare of the moment, and that’s were creativity and determination fuel the cause. One of the anecdotes of the summer of 1964, October 1st in particular, is when Jack Weinberg was tabling on campus on behalf of civil rights movements-at the time it was prohibited on campus- he refused to show his I.D. to campus police and was arrested. The police car in which he was going to be transported was surrounded by students and the car did not moved for the next 36 hours. The car’s speaker and ceiling was used by leaders of the movement to rally the crowd. Soon after this day, Mario Savio gave his famous, courageous and brilliant speech, which showcases the frustration and determination of the movement:

freespeech4  … But we’re a bunch of raw materials that don’t mean to be — have any process upon us. Don’t mean to be made into any product! Don’t mean — 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’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.

freespech3After this, arrests and harassment to the movement continued for some time, but the university gave in at the beginning of 1965 and started easing restrictions. Many other movements continued, including the Vietnam War, but this movement in Berkeley was the starting point for many civil rights movements.