Dean Leads Calls for New MovementContact Catherine Ho and Betty Yu at [email protected]
Monday, October 11, 2004
Three thousand students flooded Sproul Plaza on Friday afternoon, roaring and cheering as speakers spoke from atop a police car, re-enacting the scene from 40 years ago when thousands of students protested the university's crackdown on free speech on the same plaza.
Former Free Speech Movement activists once banned by university officials from engaging in political activity were this time graciously invited to recount tales of Berkeley in the 1960s.
But this time around, the police car was on loan from UCPD and the activists did not actually stand atop of the car-they spoke from a wooden platform erected behind the vehicle.
And it was former presidential candidate Howard Dean's appearance that drove thousands of students to the event, not the arrest of Jack Weinberg for tabling in front of Sproul Hall in 1964.
On Friday, the parol car was adorned with a life-size photo of Weinberg in the backseat window.
ASUC President Misha Leybovich took his turn on top of the car, Converse sneakers in hand, to mimic the actions that Mario Savio and other movement leaders took 40 years ago.
"We have come together to celebrate the influence this movement had on this campus and on the world," Leybovich said.
In one of his first addresses to UC Berkeley students, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau cautioned against straying away from the movement's backbone of defending free speech.
"We have to be vigilant from the left and the right and allow people to hold opinions that are highly controversial," Birgeneau said.
Free Speech Movement activists said the re-enactment of the rally brought back memories of the movement's roots.
"I want to tell you how moving it is to see a sea of faces, because most of us here in ‘64 gave everything we had to the FSM," said movement veteran Bettina Aptheker. "To see you today is to move me to tears."
California Assemblymember and movement activist Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, urged students to resist apathy and become more politically active.
"The right wing is trying to create a mythology that we were better organizers, more politically active than you are-and that is hogwash," she said.
When Dean took the microphone, the event moved toward a rally against President Bush.
"I want a president of the United States that's going to welcome every single American into the American family," Dean said.
Citing his own quick rise to the top of the presidential primaries as a result of grass-roots organization and campaign contributions over the Internet, he urged all students to use their power to bring a new season of democracy to America.
"There was another lesson that arose from this place 40 years ago. And that is ordinary people can make an enormous difference-the only thing that holds you back is you believe you can't," he said to the energized crowd.
Dean tackled heated political topics, including the war in Iraq, abortion and gay rights, saying people need to work together to oust Bush, who Dean said has lied to the American people and lacks conviction to lead the country.
He also called upon students to run for office, give money to candidates or work on campaigns.
Some students at the event said the line-up was too partisan.
"I did find it disappointing that so much of it was Bush bashing and PATRIOT Act bashing," said Amaury Gallais, president of Berkeley College Republicans. "It didn't have to be politically oriented. It could have been about free speech and the importance of voting."
Gallais was not alone in his criticism.
"I was surprised, as a representative of a nonpartisan group that co-sponsored it I was a little upset," said Becca Cramer, co-president of the Berkeley ACLU.
Still, the event managed to draw nearly 1,000 more students than predicted, which Leybovich said reawakened the spirit of the movement.
"I've seen pictures of rallies from the ‘60s," Leybovich said. "And being here, you wouldn't be able to differentiate one picture from the other."
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