¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-43004 (Part 2)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-43004 (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.

This series of documents, from the summer of 1969, relates to a complaint made by the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) regarding potential civil rights violations against grape strikers and demonstrators carried out by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department in Arizona [File #44-43004 (Part 1)].

On July 15, UFWOC representative Gustavo Gutierrez sent a letter to U.S. attorney Richard K. Burke that outlined incidents of harassment against farm workers and protesters at the hands of deputies from the sheriff's department. At the recommendation of the FBI's field office in Arizona, FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., forwarded the case to the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, as shown in a memo dated July 29. The FBI directed its Phoenix office to carry out an interview with Gutierrez at the request of the assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division.

On August 5, the Phoenix office sent back a report on its interview with Gutierrez, who had furnished the FBI with a typewritten list of accounts from UFWOC members detailing incidents in which their civil rights were possibly violated by law enforcement.

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