¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-61404

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-61404
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The primary source document described below, which can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail at right, is part of a 1,434-page file on César Chávez and the farmworker movement compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1965 and 1973. The FBI's surveillance of Chávez, which paralleled larger efforts to prove that protest groups of the civil rights era had been infiltrated by subversive influences, was unable to uncover any evidence of communism or corruption in the activities of Chávez and his followers.

The FBI's dossier on Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.

In July 1974, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office in Sacramento, California, described events related to tomato strikes in San Joaquin County, one of the largest tomato-growing regions in the country. On July 24, a general strike was declared against area tomato growers near Stockton after laborers were informed that their piece work rate would be replaced by an hourly rate, which in effect would reduce their daily wage.

On July 26, 1974, the Sacramento field office reported that 11 picketers had been arrested for trespassing during demonstrations held on July 24 and 26. The document also noted that at least four deputies had sustained minor injuries, prompting the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office (SJCSO) to consider filing a complaint that their civil rights had been violated due to harassment from protesters. On July 30, a subsequent report echoed the Sheriff office's claim that extra law enforcement personnel were necessary to contain demonstrations by Mexican American tomato pickers, thereby depriving San Joaquin citizens of "equal protection of law by virtue of the fact that they are not Mexican Americans." In response, the assistant U.S. attorney of Sacramento, California, informed the Sheriff's office that the merits of their complaint would be investigated.

On August 1, the Sacramento office issued a document that summarized the previously stated complaints and also noted accusations by the United Farm Workers that the SJCSO was siding with growers because it failed to arrest a tomato grower representative who had allegedly drove his truck into a group of UFW workers. An August 5 memorandum by the FBI director concluded that no further investigation would be conducted.

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