¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #157-30054

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #157-30054
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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 August 1973, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) field office in Sacramento sent a series of transmissions to the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., describing events related to United Farm Worker (UFW) protests in Fresno, Kern, and Tulare counties in California. In April 1973, UFW director César Chávez declared a strike against growers who had signed labor contracts with the teamsters union instead of negotiating with the UFW. In the subsequent months, UFW picketers often clashed with teamsters and farm workers, leading to incidents of violence and arrests by local law enforcement.

Several documents by the Sacramento field office provide estimates on the number of picketers present and arrested at farms in Fresno, Kern, and Tulare counties. Among them, a teletype dated August 7 noted that 410 UFW members were jailed in Fresno County; 1,500 UFW picketers participated in demonstrations in Kern County; and 1,100 UFW protesters were active in Tulare County. According to transmissions sent on August 14 and 15, the UFW ran out of funds to pay strike benefits to its members in Fresno county.

The Sacramento field office also reported altercations involving members of the UFW and teamster union. A document dated August 15 described the death of UFW picketer Nagi Moshin Daifullan, who had participated in a bar fight and attempted to elude deputies. On August 17, the Sacramento field office stated that a 60-year-old UFW member was killed when someone fired gunshots at picketers in South Lamont.

A transmission dated August 18 noted that Chávez had called for 100 FBI agents to protect UFW protesters and to investigate abuses against them. According to an August 21 report, the U.S. Marshal's office was considering assigning agents to keep the peace, but the FBI maintained position that it "does not engage in protective services" and was "handling resulting civil rights complaints with available personnel."

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