I love the fact that all the students took off their shoes before climbing on it, says UC Berkeley philosophy professor John Searle, who, as a young faculty member, joined the movement 40 years ago.
That's so American. Americans respect cars. They don't respect the police, but they do respect cars. I like that.
The notion that the Free Speech Movement was a victory of the left is a time-honored misconception. At the beginning of the school year in 1964 when, at the height of the civil rights era, the university banned political advocacy of off-campus social issues on school property, both liberal and conservative student groups joined forces, calling themselves the United Front.
After the Revolution, The Commemoration (washingtonpost.com)
The dean refused to see the other students, who, in turn, refused to budge from the building. The standoff continued into the next morning. A police officer arrested a mathematics grad student named Jack Weinberg for not identifying himself. But before the police car could take him away, students and their supporters surrounded the car, the roof and hood of which became the impromptu podium, sans shoes, for the day's rally of nearly 5,000 people.
I'll tell you a secret about democratic societies, Searle concludes.
If a movement is successful, it has to be symbolically absorbed into the mainstream. I think that's what happened to the FSM. The FSM is not a threat to anyone if it's a coffee shop -- a cafe, for God's sake. If a police car can be something that former presidential candidates can climb on, it's no longer a revolutionary act. And I think that's terrific. It's a sign of a healthy democracy.
Healthy or ill as democracy may be, there is at least one lesson unlearned from this movement. Nevada rancher Larry D. Hiibel was arrested in May of 2000, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy,
only because he thought his name was none of the [arresting] officer's business.