¡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 5 (Part 15)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 15)
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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 FBI memos, from December 1969 and April 1970, detail United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) demonstrations in Chicago related to the Delano grape strike and pesticide use by growers. The protests were indicative of the UFWOC's grassroots efforts to bring national recognition to the farmworker movement.

In a transmission dated December 24, 1969, the FBI's field office in Chicago reported on a protest at a Jewel Food Company store in Skokie, Illinois. According to a source, demonstrators blocked the entrance to the store, and consequently, store officials notified local police. The incident ended in the arrest of 20 demonstrators who refused to unblock the entrance of the store. According to a subsequent letterhead memorandum, the demonstrators indicated that they represented the UFWOC and carried out the protest in support of the union's nationwide boycott of California table grapes.

In another memo dated April 15, 1970, a confidential source advised that the UFWOC was planning to hold a protest the next day at the regional offices of the Food and Drug Administration in Chicago. According to a report on the protest, demonstrators held signs and passed out literature calling for an end to the use of harmful pesticides on Illinois food crops.

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