¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #176-69

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #176-69
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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 a teletype dated August 14, 1968, the FBI field office in Sacramento relayed to Washington information concerning an incident involving United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) members in Delano, California, over the lack of police protection for union members.

According to the teletype and succeeding documents, on the evening of August 13, the Kern County Sheriff's Office and California Highway Patrol investigated a "hit and run assault matter" between two unidentified Mexican men, who were both released pending further investigation of the accident. Later, officers from the Delano Police Department were called to the residence of one of the individuals involved in the matter. There, they encountered Chávez and approximately 25 other UFWOC members, who called for action concerning that night's assault and for increased protection of union workers. In response, the officers said that the matter was out of their jurisdiction and left the residence.

At 10:00 P.M. that night,  UFWOC members, along with Chávez, began picketing the Delano Police Department to protest the lack of police protection for union members. The picketing lasted until 1:00 A.M. and continued the next day.

The documents also cite the chief of the Delano Police Department mentioning that Chávez had applied for a permit to hold a UFWOC parade on Labor Day, September 2, which would consist up to 30,000 union members and supporters. However, the city denied the application, reportedly due to safety concerns. Additionally, the chief stated that there had been no violence in connection with the union protests, as was the case with previous demonstrations.

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