Berkeley Free Speech Now

by Steed Dropout
Sept. 14, 2014

“A bottle of beer half-spills out of a brown paper bag onto a tree’s roots and the tree gets cited for drunkenness”–Berkeley Poet Laureate, and veteran of the People’s Park riots, Julia Vinograd.


Grizzled activists who were “Berkeley in the Sixties.” were interviewed for a film named after them twenty years after they defied Reagan and the National Guard. They offer surprisingly self-critical assessments of their movement, perhaps the first mass student uprising in U.S. higher education.

Lynne Hollander Savio, Mario Savio's widow (they met in the movement), right, next to filmmaker far right. Photo by Ted Friedman

At an anniversary screening of the film, Thursday, at U.C. Berkeley’s Pacific Film archive, on campus, the FSM activists invited local activists to speak out. The progenitor-activists vowed to oppose a recent statement on free-speech by UCB Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks.

Sixties symbol, People’s Park founder Michael Delacour, 77, showed–Saturday in the park–that activists could still push back when allegedly shoved around by the man. Delacour charged Telegraph Ave. property owners, the city of Berkeley, and the university with pulling down his announcements, and interfering with people’s rights to marijuana use in People’s Park. “Telegraph property owners act like they own the street,” Delacour told me.

Free Speech at Cal Student Union renovation site, Sunday. Photo by Ted Friedman


Push Back event: Mike Delecour and Julia Vinograd. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“They [owners] want our money but they don’t support us.” Delacour complained. In response Delacour proposed, Saturday, that people who dropped in on the push-back concert in People’s Park take over [free-speech hangout] the Caffe Mediterraneum. “I’m not proposing any thing violent,” Delacour told prospective demonstrators. “Just that we take up the seats and disrupt their business.”

In the days leading up to the park event, Delacour was spreading the word about his Caffe Med takeover. When I asked Craig Becker, Caffe Med owner, what would be his response to a Delacour takeover, Becker told me, “Mike has never caused trouble in here. He’s always a perfect gentleman.”


Delacour breaking his own boycott. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Instead of disrupting business as usual, Delacour and a party of eight brought business–theirs. Someone bought Delacour a glass of wine and told him to “chill.” Delacour coffee-ed a radio host from Santa Cruz, who interviewed him for his radio show. A homeless man told what it was like on the streets of Berkeley.

Radio free Santa Cruz interviews a Berkeley homeless man. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“Maybe we can get this Med protest underway this Spring, with student involvement,” Delacour mused.

Delacour has been down so long it looks like up to him.

These views do not represent those of publications in which my work appears.


Contraption. Photo by Ted Friedman.
Lynne Hollander Savio, Mario Savio's widow (they met in the movement), right, next to filmmaker far right. Photo by Ted Friedman.

DSCO. 0272: Before Push-back, a chicken dinner.

Lines form early for Berkeley in the Sixties, PFA. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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