¡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 6 (Part 2)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 6 (Part 2)
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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 this series of memos from January and February 1971, the FBI's field office in Seattle reports on a January 14 protest held outside of the main gates of Fort Lewis, a U.S. Army facility located near Tacoma. The protest was aimed at drawing attention to the Department of Defense's purchase and use of lettuce picked by non-union labor, which was under boycott by the United Farm Workers (UFW).

In a memo dated January 14, the FBI describes the individuals at the protest as "hippie-types" who held signs indicating their relationship with the UFW. When the protesters refused to disperse, they were detained by military police for identification purposes.

A subsequent memo dated February 24 contains additional details on the protest and the individuals involved. According to a source, spokespersons from the group who had gathered at the main gate said that they wanted to speak with Fort Lewis's commanding general about the military's use of "scab lettuce." The source also indicates that 30 protesters—whose names are listed in the document—refused to leave and were taken into custody; these included two individuals who had passed out fliers titled "Military Largest Buyer of Scab Lettuce." The file includes a copy of the flier, which is branded with the flag of the UFW and demands that the Department of Defense cease to purchase lettuce produced by Bud Antle, Inc., which makes up 60% of its supply.

The appendix of the February 24 memo relays information on the activities of the Progressive Labor Party, a group founded by former members of Communist Party USA; Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and its related factions; the Seattle Liberation Front; and the Young Socialist Alliance.
 

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