Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Operation Abolition

On May 12-14, 1960, the House Committee on Un-American Activities held hearings at City Hall in San Francisco.

Hundreds of students from nearby universities, and other concerned citizens, both supporters of the Committee (many of whom had been sent tickets to the hearings) and opponents, who claimed that the Committee was a notorious abuser of civil liberties, converged on City Hall.

Students attempting to enter the hearing room were forcibly removed from the building by police. Film of the events made by local TV stations was commandeered by the Committee, which then commissioned the production of a film, OPERATION ABOLITION, to tell the story from the Committee's point of view.

There was a strong reaction against the Committee and the film on many campuses across the country. In fact, the copy of the film now available on YouTube is deposited there by the American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU.

These hearings, and the reaction that followed, when added to the new activism on Civil Rights generated by the sit-ins spreading through the South and the rest of the country, gave enormous energy to what was to become the student movement.

These events took place ten years before the events of May 1970, which saw  the invasion of Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State, Jackson State, and Augusta, Georgia.

Stills from Operation Abolition. These frames show students and others being dragged down the City Hall steps, which had been flooded by fire hoses. 

The film prompted a backlash among students who saw the film and were offended by its simple minded appeal and by the apparent brutality of the police.

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