Lee Heidhues 12.4.2021
I was a Senior in the Journalism Department at San Francisco State in fall 1968.
1968 was a violent tumultuous year in American history. The Vietnam war dragged on with no end in sight. Martin Luther King and Democrat presidential candidate Robert Kennedy were assassinated.
The Democrat convention in Chicago turned into what was later described as “The Chicago Police Riot” by a Commission appointed to investigate the events of August 1968.
In early November 1968 Republican Richard Nixon was elected President.
The next day the Strike began at San Francisco State. The reasons for the Strike were many but the main goal of the strikers was creation of an Ethnic Studies Department. The Strike was spearheaded by a combination of black and white student activists.
The Strike turned into the biggest student strike in American history. I was on campus during the entire nearly five month struggle. Three years ago the Journalism Department at San Francisco State had an event to remember the event. I was the only person from the 1968 Journalism Department who was in attendance.
Given the opportunity to speak I disabused the young attendees who may have thought the Strike some romantic escapade to be viewed through history books. It was not.
I told them it was very sad and depressing and was not enjoyable for a moment. It brought out the nascent fascism in America as exhibited by the brutal behavior of law enforcement. It provided the most right wing reactionary politicians a forum to hammer progressives of the day.
The person who most benefited from the Strike was Ronald Reagan. The then Governor of California, former actor and General Electric Co. television pitchman used the Strike at San Francisco State and unrest at UC Berkeley to propel himself onto the National spotlight. The rest is sad history.
Following are a number of pictures taken by various San Francisco Chronicle photographers along with a couple of front pages.