Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Long before Berkeley student protesters riled California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who had them penned in a plaza and gassed from helicopters, the University of California campus was a crucible for dissent. Many accounts of Berkeley’s radical decade open with 1964’s free-speech movement, a crucial development in the history of modern student activism, but that crusade resulted from the university’s attempted ban on the political discourse that had led to previous actions. D.C. filmmaker Mark Kitchell’s 1990 documentary Berkeley in the ’60s begins four years earlier, with demonstrations against the House Un-American Activities Committee. Next up were protests against Bay Area businesses, including posh San Francisco hotels, that refused to employ African-Americans. The companies pressured the university, which banned the distribution of political literature on campus. One free-speech movement later, the faculty voted 7-1 against the administration, and politics re-enrolled at Berkeley. But in the speech in which FSM organizer Mario Savio announced the end of the campaign, he concluded, “Now we have a war to stop.” And so the students looked beyond Berkeley to Oaklandhome of the local draft board and, later, the Black Panthersand Haight-Ashbury, where the tuned-in and turned-on were frequent allies but occasional antagonists. Kitchell’s generally sympathetic but sometimes skeptical film recalls such turning points as the moment Berkeley protesters switched from singing leftist standards to “Yellow Submarine,” and when Eldridge Cleaver uttered the immortal line later to be borrowed by George W. Bush: “Bring it on!” The film screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, at Visions Bar Noir, 1927 Florida Ave. NW. $9. (202) 667-0090. (Mark Jenkins)