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26 Feet to Revolution: From Berkeley (1964) to Kent State (1970)

Written by Gary North on October 29, 2016

Here is a video of a recent protest at the University of California, Berkeley, the nation’s most academically prestigious tax-funded university. It is the premier state school today. It was in 1964. It was in 1880.

This is not a threat to the social order. It is an annoyance for students who want to go to class.


On September 10, 1964, the Free Speech Movement began at Berkeley. Almost no one remembers why.

The University’s Board of Regents had long imposed restrictions on what kinds of recruiting were possible on school property. Everyone involved in student government knew the rules. Every group had to be approved: fraternities, sororities, religious groups, and political activists. The underlying motivation, more than anything, was to restrict religious proselytizing: the church/state separation issue.

There were almost no conservative political groups on any of the six campuses (San Diego was opening with under 200 undergraduates that semester). As an undergraduate, I was probably the hardest core right-winger in any of the student governments on the five campuses. I had been involved in student government. I had been president of the sophomore class (1960) and president of the Associated Men Students (1961). I was part of an elite group of campus leaders called the California Club. The president of the University, Clark Kerr, met with us once year.

In the fall of 1964, a 26-foot strip of land close to the Berkeley campus on Telegraph Avenue had long been used by Left-wing activists for recruiting. They set up tables at the beginning of the school year. In early September, the University’s administration learned that this strip of land was actually inside the boundaries of the campus. So, the rules governing recruiting applied.

The Assistant Dean of Students, Katherine Towle, decided to enforce the rules. She sent out a letter on September 14.

“Provisions of the policy of The Regents concerning `Use of University Facilities’ will be strictly enforced in all areas designated as property of The Regents… including the 26-foot strip of brick walkway at the campus entrance on Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue…”

“Specifically, Section III of the (Regents’) policy…prohibits the use of University facilities `for the purpose of soliciting party membership or supporting or opposing particular candidates or propositions in local, state or national elections,’ except that Chief Campus Officers `shall establish rules under which candidates for public office (or their designated representatives) may be afforded like opportunity to speak upon the campuses at meetings where the audience is limited to the campus community.’ Similarly, Chief Campus Officers “shall establish rules under which persons supporting or opposing propositions in state or local elections may be afforded like opportunity to speak upon the campuses at meetings where the audience is limited to the campus community.”

“Section III also prohibits the use of University facilities `for the purpose of religious worship, exercise or conversion.’ Section IV of the policy states further that University facilities `may not be used for the purpose of raising money to aid projects not directly connected with some authorized activity of the University…’

“Now that the so-called `speaker ban’ is gone, and the open forum is a reality, student organizations have ample opportunity to present to campus audiences on a `special event’ basis an unlimited number of speakers on a variety of subjects, provided the few basic rules concerning notification and sponsorship are observed… The `Hyde Park’ area in the Student Union Plaza is also available for impromptu, unscheduled speeches by students and staff.

“It should be noted also that this area on Bancroft Way… has now been added to the list of designated areas for the distribution of handbills, circulars or pamphlets by University students and staff in accordance with Berkeley campus policy. Posters, easels and card tables will not be permitted in this area because of interference with the flow of (pedestrian) traffic. University facilities may not, of course, be used to support or advocate off-campus political or social action.

“We ask for the cooperation of every student and student organization in observing the full implementation of these policies. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to come to the Office of the Dean of Students, 201 Sproul Hall.”

This was reasonable. She was enforcing the rules.

She had the campus groundskeeper post some small copper plaques: “Property of The Regents, University of California. Permission to enter or pass over is revocable at any time.” The story is here.

Groups of students protested. The main group was Slate, a Left-wing activist group that was prominent on the Berkeley campus.

What most students did not know was that Dean Towle was Col. Towle, USMC (ret.). She had been Director of Women Marines when she retired in 1953. She had been awarded the Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal, American Campaign Medal, and World War Two Victory Medal. Col. Towle was not going to let a bunch of long-haired Lefties violate the rules.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

Continue Reading on www.garynorth.com

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