The Free Speech Movement, or FSM, was begun in 1964 at Berkeley by college students enraged by the severe physical violence called down upon them by the college administration when they organized nonviolent protests around political issues like the Vietnam War and civil rights.

The turning point that sparked this movement was September 14, 1964, when the Dean decided to "strictly enforce" all campus regulations prohibiting political advocacy of any kind. All the student groups on campus immediately banded together and picketed meetings at which the Dean and Chancellors clarified these resolutions; then groups including SNCC, the Young Socialist Alliance, and the Du Bois Club staged a test violation of these rules. They were summoned to the Dean's office; 400 students showed up demanding to join in, at which point the Dean cancelled. 700 students subsequently staged a sit-in in Sproul Hall. Eight are suspended, and student Jack Williams is arrested at a subsequent rally protesting the suspensions. Students immediately surrounded the police car, making speeches and preventing police action for 27 solid hours.

During and after this extended rally, 250 more students staged a sit-in at the Dean's office asking to discuss the suspensions. In the middle of that sit-in, a few hours after the rally is ended, 500 new police officers arrived on campus, which only increases the number of demonstrators to 3,000.

UC President Kerr finally signed a pact with eight students representing those suspended. The students galvanized by this 32-hour battle formed a formal alliance, calling it the Free Speech Movement.

President Kerr immediately denounced their leadership as a "Mao-Castroite influence," and the battle to change the campus rules around political speech continued on.

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