1960 April 4

Anti-HUAC Demonstrations Planned


The Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms (CCPAF) developed plans on this day to protest upcoming HUAC hearings in San Francisco, scheduled for May 12, 1960. The stormy May demonstrations against HUAC on that day and the following days were the largest-ever public protest against the committee. On May 13, as an estimated 3,500 anti-HUAC protesters crowded San Francisco City Hall, the police suddenly turned fire hoses on them. Some protesters were swept down the long steps of City Hall, while others were dragged down by the police. The highly publicized events marked the first major pubic protests against HUAC, and the committee’s reputation began a long decline. The House of Representatives finally abolished it in January 1975.

The CCPAF was led by Frank Wilkinson, longtime anti-HUAC crusader. He had been a staff member of the Los Angeles Housing Authority in the early 1950s, where he worked to advance racially and ethnically just public housing. At a hearing on the Chavez Ravine area on August 29, 1952, a real estate attorney pulled out a dossier (which probably came from the FBI, and asked Wilkinson about what political groups he had belonged to since 1931. Wilkinson declined to answer the question. The next day, the LAHA fired him. From that point until his death he never again held a job outside of civil liberties and anti-HUAC work.

Wilkinson was called before HUAC in 1956 and again in 1958. He refused to answer questions before HUAC on July 30, 1958, was convicted of contempt of Congress, and sentenced to prison on May 1, 1961. The FBI file on him consisted of 132,000 pages, and it is believed to be the largest file on any single individual. Wilkinson died on January 2, 2006.

See the films that resulted from the famous protests: Pro-HUAC: Operation Abolition (1960): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeiW63M3bcI

The ACLU Reply: Operation Correction (1960):

Learn more about Frank Wilkinson: Robert Sherill, First Amendment Felon: The Story of Frank Wilkinson (2005)

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