Free Speech Movement, University of California Berkeley

Students participating in Free Speech Protest at UC Berkeley

  • September 10, 1964 sparked the movement in the form of an open letter from a “former student” demanding that students “organize and split this campus wide open” (Free Speech Movement Chronology)
  • September 16, 1964: A letter issued by Dean of Students banning tables that advocate literature and activities on off-campus political issues
  • September 30, 1964: A number of student groups set up tables without permission. Those 5 students were asked to report to the Dean but brought with them 500 plus students with a signed petition stating that all students wished to be treated equally as they all decided to set up tables on campus. The Dean refused to agree to the petition demands so the students staged another sit-in.
  • October 1, 1964: The sit-in disbanned but agreed to hold a “free speech rally” later in the day. This rally was broken up by the adminstration and police force. There were an estimated 3,000 students who joined the 32-hour protest.
  • January 4, 1965: After three monthsof meetings, studies, proposals, statements, debates, rallies, vigils, and protests, an agreeable statement was issued by the university and students were able to hold their first legal rally on campus.
(A more detailed outline of the Free Speech Movement can be found here.)

The students staged the initial sit-in and established the “Free University” where students presented talks and discussions and many students contributed in lively debates.

The Free Speech Moment protested the stuffy lecture halls and students being treated as commodoties, raw material to be spit out for the bureaucratic-industrial society (Petras, p. 343).

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)

Mark Rudd, president of SDS speaking at Columbia University

  • April 23, 1968: Students seize several campus buildings at Columbia University. Students were removed from the buildings on April 30th after the protests become violent.
  • May 22, 1968: A month of SDS protests cumulated in a fire in Hamilton Hall at Columbia University. Research was destroyed.
  • March 6, 1970: Three members of a radical society (the Weathermen) born out of Students for a Democratic Society, accidently kill themselves while building bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse.

The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a group born from– and simultaneously considered leaders of– the New Left. They started with a focus on politics and domestic concerns, avoiding antiwar rhetoric. They got started with participating in the Civil Rights struggle. At Columbia University the group lead a number of student protests against the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and specifically the building of a gymnasium in Harlem that they felt was racially insensitive. SDS demanded that the university cut ties with the Institute for Defense Analysis.

Kent State Massacre

Mary Vecchio hovering over the body of student Jeffrey Miller

  • April 30, 1970: President Nixon announces the invasion of Cambodia, prompting protests on many campuses across the country.
  • May 1, 1970: Students stage the first protest at Kent State, marked with heated debates and the burning of a copy of the US Constitution.
  • May 3, 1970: Ohio National Guard is sent to Kent State after the ROTC building is burned down during student protests. A state of emergency is declared.
  •  May 4, 1970: A protest set for noon is disrupted and violence erupts. Four students are killed and nine are wounded.

The Kent State Protest or Kent State Massacre drew national attention with the death and injury of Kent State students. Students organized protests to voice their dislike of US involvement in the Vietnam War/Cambodian invasion. Kent State faculty convinced the National Guard to allow them to talk to the remaining demonstrators after the shootings, convincing them to step down. The university was closed immediately following the incident, with classes postponed until the summer of 1970. Students were allowed to continue and finish coursework off campus or via mail.


CLICK HERE to access an audio and/or a video of UC Berkeley Freedom of Speech leader Mario Savio giving a speech on the steps of Spoul Hall.

CLICK HERE for Part 1 of Columbia University Protests (SDS) in 1968, CLICK HERE for Part 2.

CLICK HERE for a link to a video and image montage of the Kent State Protests and Massacre.

CLICK HERE  to see a video of Neil Young singing “Ohio,” the song inspired by the Kent State Massacre.


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