Mario Savio Spins in His Grave as Berkeley Cancels Ann Coulter's Speech

Though I'm no fan of her politics, I believe most Americans recognize the name of Ann Coulter:

...but I suspect that less than 10% remember Mario Savio:

From September through  December of 1964 Savio and a dozen other students at the University of California at Berkeley organized protests that became known as the Free Speech Movement, insisting that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students' right to free speech and academic freedom.  

On December 2, between 1,500 and 4,000 students went into Sproul Hall as a last resort in order to re-open negotiations with the administration on the subject of restrictions on political speech and action on campus.  Among other grievances was the fact that four of their leaders were being singled out for punishment. The demonstration was orderly; students studied, watched movies, and sang folk songs. Joan Baez was there to lead in the singing, as well as lend moral support. "Freedom classes" were held by teaching assistants on one floor, and a special Channukah service took place in the main lobby. On the steps of Sproul Hall, Mario Savio gave a famous speech:

... 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.

At midnight, Alameda County deputy district attorney Edwin Meese III telephoned Governor Edmund Brown, Sr, asking for authority to proceed with a mass arrest. Shortly after 2 a.m. on December 4, 1964, police cordoned off the building, and at 3:30 a.m. began the arrest. Close to 800 students were arrested, most of which were transported by bus to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, about 25 miles away. They were released on their own recognizance after a few hours behind bars. About a month later, the university brought charges against the students who organized the sit-in, resulting in an even larger student protest that all but shut down the university.

After much disturbance, the University officials slowly backed down. By January 3, 1965, the new acting chancellor, Martin Meyerson (who had replaced the resigned Edward Strong), established provisional rules for political activity on the Berkeley campus. He designated the Sproul Hall steps an open discussion area during certain hours of the day and permitting tables. This applied to the entire student political spectrum, not just the liberal elements that drove the Free Speech Movement.

Most outsiders, however, identified the Free Speech Movement as a movement of the Left. Students and others opposed to U.S. foreign policy did indeed increase their visibility on campus following the FSM's initial victory. In the spring of 1965, the FSM was followed by the Vietnam Day Committee, a major starting point for the anti-Vietnam war movement.

In 1966 there was a substantial voter backlash against the individuals involved in the Free Speech Movement. Ronald Reagan won an unexpected victory in the fall of 1966 and was elected Governor of California.  He then directed the UC Board of Regents to dismiss UC President Clark Kerr because of the perception that he had been too soft on the protesters. The FBI had kept a secret file on Kerr. Reagan had gained political traction by campaigning on a platform to "clean up the mess in Berkeley".  The rest has pretty much run through the fabric of protest in contemporary American History.

Now in an ironic twist, UC Berkley officials sent the Berkeley College Republicans a letter Tuesday, canceling an appearance by Anne Coulter because campus police had determined they could not ensure the safety of Coulter, audience members or protesters expected at the event: "We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue," said the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton. "Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully." - Ann Coulter vows to speak at Berkeley despite cancellation

It's an ironic hundred and eighty degree spin on the Free Speech Movement that must have poor old Mario spinning in his grave.

Views: 296

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 20, 2017 at 8:27am

my thoughts precisely    

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 20, 2017 at 8:29am

will air this

Comment by JMac1949 Today on April 20, 2017 at 8:30am

You're welcome to edit and air as you will.  Most of it is cut and pasted from Wikipedia.

Comment by koshersalaami on April 20, 2017 at 8:32am

I can't stand Coulter but she should absolutely be allowed to speak. If I were going to put limits on free speech, it would be on people advocating violence or people singling out a group to be targeted in a bigoted fashion. (Keep in mind that last sentence started with "if.") Coulter doesn't fit either description. 

Comment by JMac1949 Today on April 20, 2017 at 8:44am

Kosh, I can't remember who said it but here's how I remember the phrase: "If you're never offended in college, you should ask for your money back."

Comment by Rosigami on April 20, 2017 at 8:46am

Thanks for this, JMac.

Comment by JMac1949 Today on April 20, 2017 at 8:47am

Rosi, you're more than welcome.

Comment by Ben Sen on April 20, 2017 at 9:41am

I knew Mario.  He was one of the few who after the those years were over had a "normal" life and didn't self-destruct nor take anybody down.  He was radical because it was what was called for at the time.  I fear that we are living in a more polarized a time now when ideas like "give peace a chance," are considered childish, and assault rifles are common.  Let the folks who want to watch Coulter do so on the internet and let her live and nobody get shot.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on April 20, 2017 at 9:49am

Ben   as I hear that I also know that speech freedom has survived far worse polarisation and violent impulses than we do now and it has survived because people stood up for Amendment 1 and did not assume it and we could not overwhelm, in time, nutball ideologies.

Comment by Claudia Darling on April 20, 2017 at 9:52am

Some speech is more free than others, depending on if you agree with it or it's popular. (Sarcasm)

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