¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-60006 (Part 3)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-60006 (Part 3)
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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 April 1974, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded its limited investigation into burglaries of United Farm Workers offices and an attempt to sell stolen UFW documents. On March 21, a man claiming to be Fred Schwartz had contacted UFW attorney Jerry Cohen and asked for $35,000 in exchange for UFW papers and information incriminating California growers in the robberies. After meeting with Schwartz on March 25, Cohen reported the incidents to the Civil Rights Division, who requested the FBI conduct an investigation into possible violations of the UFW's civil rights under Title 18, USC 241.

In a report dated April 19, the FBI's Sacramento field office described its findings from an investigation that lasted from March 28 to April 10. The report contained Cohen's description of his March 21 phone call and March 25 meeting with Schwartz. It also included two photographs and information from the FBI's surveillance of their subsequent meeting on March 31, which resulted in the bureau's discovery of Schwartz's true identity as Jerome Ducote of San Jose. Furthermore, the report described an April 1 telephone call in which Schwartz/Ducote requested the UFW provide smaller cash payments as bail money for individuals involved in the burglaries, in exchange for signed statements implicating the involvement of California growers in the break-ins. According to the report, Cohen had refused to pay and had recommended "Schwartz" contact the FBI.  The report noted that "Schwartz" called the FBI later that day and made arrangements to appear at the FBI's office in Bakersfield on April 4.

On April 25, an airtel from the FBI's field office in San Francisco stated that Assistant District Attorney Dennis Lempert of Santa Clara County was notified that the FBI was no longer seeking to interview Ducote. Addressed to the FBI director, the document also indicated that the San Francisco office would cease its investigation into the matter unless further notified by the bureau.
 

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