¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 4 (Part 4)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 4 (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.

These documents, dated August and September 1968, deal with a United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) demonstration against the Delano police department, as well as an investigation of a farm workers strike in Rio Grande City, Texas.

In a memo dated August 16, the FBI's Sacramento field office indicates that it will follow the UFWOC's picketing of the Delano police department. According to an attached letterhead memorandum, the purpose of the demonstration was to protest the lack of police protection for union members. A confidential source notes that among the picketers were members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano nationalist youth organization that emerged during the Chicano movement in the 1960s.

A subsequent letterhead memorandum dated August 19 provides more details about the Delano police department protest. It refers to an interview with Chávez in the Delano Record, in which the labor leader refers to a beating incident involving a UFWOC worker as one of the sparks that led to the protest. Chávez is quoted as saying that the beating is only one of several similar incidents that happened within the past month and that the protest would continue until the police department took action to provide union members with adequate protection. A source that had observed the demonstration on August 16 said that up to 30 protesters were present and behaved in an orderly manner; he also reported a "vague rumor" that Chávez had invited "militant groups" to participate in the demonstration. In a memo dated September 10, the Sacramento field office reported that no additional picketing by the UFWOC had occurred within the past week, so it placed its investigation of the matter in a closed status.

A separate memo dated August 26 indicated that the San Antonio field office was placing its investigation of union activity in Starr County, Texas, in an inactive status. The memo referred to the FBI's surveillance of activities related to a farm workers strike in Rio Grande City, Texas, as detailed in previous documents [File #100-444762, Section 4 (Part 1)].

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