This photo-poster hangs on the wall of the Free Speech Movement Cafe on the Berkeley campus. That’s graduate student Jack Weinberg in the back of a police car after his arrest on October 1, 1964, for violating a campus ban on political speech. The police had driven the car onto Sproul Plaza on campus. After Weinberg’s arrest someone (we still don’t know who) shouted “Sit down!” Hundreds did, setting off a mass sit-in that lasted about 36 hours.
I spent months studying 1964 and the Free Speech Movement as background for The Ninth Day. I covered the big news, the stuff you’ve likely heard about recently as we look back fifty years: civil rights, Freedom Summer, the Beatles, the presidential race, Vietnam. Before 2014 slips away, I thought I’d share a few outtakes from my research, tidbits overshadowed from 1964 that never made it into The Ninth Day.
The Ninth Day tells the story of Hope Friis, a normal teenager living in Berkeley, California in the 1960s: she hangs out with friends, spends time with her family, and dreams of winning a singing competition and college scholarship despite her pronounced stutter. It seems like she has everything under control, until she takes part in the Free Speech movement that engulfs the city—a choice that could crush her chance of competing.