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Free Speech Movement in the Us

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Analyse the ideals and goals of the free speech movement in Berkeley.

The first official protest was held in May 1960 in the San Francisco Hall. The protest was held whilst a meeting for the House of Un-American Committee (HUAC) was taking place. It was a stand against US oppression of political freedom, and with the work of HUAC hitting close to him - a Berkeley student had been subpoenaed, the students were ready to make their opposition heard.

It is important not to take the activities of the early 1960's as independent from the years preceding it. In another time and another context, the activities of HUAC may not have been met with the same opposition. However following the wave of the civil rights movements in the mid 1950's and more importantly the era of McCarthyism, there existed a very real and strong resistance to anything that resembled what was seen as the "witch trials" of the fifties.

Interestingly, it was not the protest itself that sparked the beginning of what became known as the free speech movement. Rather it was the reaction of the media and the government that encouraged the support of students throughout the country. What was intended to be a peaceful protest was portrayed to the country as evidence of a vast "communist plot." Dubbed as "operation abolition," a video of the protest was released, supposedly showing how the communist were now using students to achieve their means. The plan backfired; students were attracted to Berkeley by the droves, with a new sense of determination in tow.

It is probable that the administration in taking away the student's political frontline were only aiming to subdue the civil rights movement. However the effect of banning everyone from speaking their mind had an effect unforeseen by those in charge. Students from all backgrounds and schools of political thought were united; students that under any other circumstance never would have come together. This is what made the free-speech movement unique; it was a merger of forces across the political front, only possible because the matters at stake transcended political orientation.

As outlined in the film, "Berkeley in the 60's,"



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