Zach Groff
Published on
December 22, 2016

Four Times Social Movements Took Root in Berkeley

by Zach Groff

You might have heard that Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) has a focus on Berkeley (and we'd love to organize more cities to pop up and start organizing animal rights centers and local movements for animal liberation). Why Berkeley? Here are four stories from history that answer that question:

1. The Free Speech Movement

 Mario Savio leads a free speech march through UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza
Mario Savio leads a free speech march through UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza

Before the 1960s, Universities frequently restricted political activities on campus. In 1964, UC Berkeley student Mario Savio rose up and began rousing crowds of students to push for bans on political activity at UC Berkeley to be lifted - paving the way for greater free speech protections at Berkeley and on campuses around the world.

2. Centers for Independent Living

 Berkeley residents march for disability rights.
Berkeley residents march for disability rights.

One of the least-recognized great social movements of the twentieth century was the sea change in public perceptions of people with disabilities. Outright bigotry, mockery, and cruel confinement of people with disabilities was an accepted part of life in the early 20th century. In the 1960s, people with disabilities in Berkeley established the Center for Independent Living, which spread around the United States and ultimately became the backbone of the disability rights movement.

3. Nonsmokers' Rights Groups

A key turning point in the fight against tobacco in the United States was when grassroots citizens began rising up and challenging smoking by asserting that smoking violated their rights. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, the group that led the charge, is based out of Berkeley, California, ground zero for a movement that took down one of the most common - and deadly - habits.

4. Environmentalism

 Berkeley's Ecology Center led the way for urban environmental groups.
Berkeley's Ecology Center led the way for urban environmental groups.

Did you know that Berkeley was one of the first cities to have a recycling program? Following an oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley took the lead in the organizing of environmentalism in the United States around the year 1970.

5. Animal rights?

As the host of the first ever Animal Rights Center in the Western hemisphere, will Berkeley lead the way for animal rights? Time will tell, but DxE has a roadmap and a plan to take us there.


Want to get involved? DxE is a grassroots network focused on empowering you to be the best activist you can be. Here are some steps you can take. 

  1. Sign up to our mailing list and share our content on social media. 
  2. Join a local DxE community (or, better yet, come visit us in Berkeley).
  3. Take the Liberation Pledge. And join us in building a true social movement for animals.

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