¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-57102 (Part 4)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-57102 (Part 4)
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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 the fall of 1973, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continued to compile information on complaints of civil rights violations by United Farm Workers (UFW) picketers during confrontations with teamsters and local sheriff officers in Kern County, California. At the time, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the UFW had been engaged in a dispute over which group would represent farmworkers in negotiations with growers.

On August 20, 1973, the League of United Latino American Citizens of Northern California sent a telegram to FBI director Clarence M. Kelley in support of the UFW's request for federal intervention to protect striking farm workers from violence and civil rights abuses.

Dated on September 4 and  21, 1973, documents from the FBI field office in Sacramento described conversations with the UFW legal department as agents attempted to locate and interview witnesses. Sections and pages have been withheld from both documents under 7(c) and (d) of the Freedom of Information Act, which permits withholding of information that would result in the invasions of privacy or the identification of confidential witnesses.

In a September 14 memo to FBI director Kelley, Assistant Attorney General Henry E. Petersen of the Criminal Division asked the FBI to forward information on incidents of violence that occurred near Kovacevich Ranch on August 13, Guimarra Ranch on August 22, and Nalbandian Ranch on August 30.

A November 15 memo described a meeting between Assistant Attorney General J. Stanley Pottinger of the Civil Rights Division and the FBI director, in which Pottinger expressed gratitude for the FBI's assistance in six "highly sensitive and delicate matters." Among the cases, Pottinger stated that the assignment of two Spanish-speaking agents to assist in the UFW investigation had "stilled the complaints and comments that the Department had receive from representatives 'on the Hill' relating to the cases."

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