1960 May 12

Major Anti-HUAC Protest Begins in San Francisco

 

On this day, San Francisco City Hall was the scene of major protests against the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), with fire hoses used against protesters on the steps of city hall. Because of the number of protesters (3,500 at one point), the committee’s unreasonable actions (such as excluding anti-HUAC people from the hearing room), and police brutality against demonstrators, the event is probably the most famous anti-HUAC protest in the entire history of the committee. Uncooperative witnesses were removed from the hearing room, while people with special passes from the committee were allowed in. When a larger crowd of protesters assembled the following day, singing and chanting, a judge ordered the crowd dispersed. On the 14th of May, fire hoses were used against the protesters outside the courthouse, forcing some people to slide down the steps of the building.

In response to the events that reflected badly on the committee, HUAC used newsreel footage of the demonstrations to produce a highly slanted film, Operation Abolition. The ACLU of Northern California replied with its own film, Operation Correction, pointing out the distortions in the HUAC film.

The demonstrations had been organized by Frank Wilkinson, leader of the national campaign to abolish HUAC (see April 4, 1960). Wilkinson himself had refused to answer questions when called by HUAC on July 30, 1958, and would be sentenced to prison on May 1, 1961 for contempt of Congress.

View the protests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVQnFpzU5h8

View HUAC film Operation Abolition on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeiW63M3bcI

View ACLU rebuttal, Operation Correction on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeiW63M3bcI

Read the biography of Frank Wilkinson, organizer of the abolish HUAC movement: Robert Sherrill, First Amendment Felon: The Story of Frank Wilkinson, His 132,000 Page FBI File and His Epic Fight for Civil Rights and Liberties (2004)

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