Occupy Cal - Daniel Ellsberg in Berkeley, November 2011


Daniel Ellsberg is a well known figure in the United States of America as he leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers to the press which lead to the Watergate affair later and forced President Nixon to resign. 

He joins students that have just been re-occupying the Sprowl Plaza at the University of California Berkeley, a significant place in the history of the country as the protests against the Vietnam War started exactly there.

Ellsbeg comments might be surprising for most listeners: he confesses that he had lost hope in a betterment of the over-all political situation, but when he say the group decision making of the students who voted for which decisions to take in a democratic manner, he says to have regained hope.

He recalls the recent chain reaction of events that lead to the very situation he is interviewed in: Bradley Manning, the man accused of leaking the Cablegate files, being in detention, the documents themselves inspiring the changes in Tunesia and Egypt. These, in turn, gave rise to the Occupy Movement which spread to Berkeley, where the generational change started in the 1960ies. Ellsberg assertains that a contemporary youth movement can be seen to evolve now.

  • Date of recording: Tue, 2011-11-15
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Daniel Ellsberg: I am Daniel Ellsberg. I have been arrested a few times before, but I have never seen a scene like this, I did not think it was possible. It is hard to believe that the police will try to shut this off, but we will be standing here to see what happens. People were kind enough to offer me some place in a tent in front of the Mario Salvio Steps here in the front of Sprowl hall, so I am really honoured to be with them.

John Hamilton: And Daniel Ellsberg, you will be staying here tonight, at the steps of Sprowl Plaza?

Daniel Ellsberg: I am staying here tonight. When I heared that the people had voted … – by the way, I have never seen a group process like the General Assembly I have been seeing here tonight, they were actually voting, thousands of people. It is an inspiring sight, I would not have believed it could happen and I am very pleased.

It takes me back to the Rocky Flats Truth Force on the tracks. That was a place where we had a chance to sit on those tracks and they could not take us off except when the trains were coming with nuclear material from Rocky Flats Plutonium Productions. So we could have a continuous action and we were able to stop the trains everytime they came around for a year.


But I have not seen anything like that since … that was 1978. This Occupy Movement is an invention. I am tempted to say it started here, but actually it came right from Egypt and Tunesia.

And, actually, an inspiring thought to me is that the man who is accused of puttting out the State Department cables to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, who is sitting in Levenworth right now, one of his cables,- in fact several of his cables -, were a major inspiration to the non-violent uprising in Tunesia. So one person speaking out really can make a very big difference. Tunesia went directly to Tahir Square and the occupation and, I think, to all of these movements in America and around the world.


Frankly, it has been a while since I felt as much hope as I feel tonight. I have almost been reluctant to speak in public and let people know how hopeless I felt some times. And that mode is changed tonight and I think it won´t go away.


The young people are recreating the youth movement of the 1960ies and the youth movement changed this country in the 60ies and we have not really seen it like this since then. So I have great great hope for what is coming out of this.


John Hamilton: Now, Daniel Ellsberg, you are, of course, well known for leaking the Pentagon Papers and you are a defender, therefor, for the right of free speech and the right to publish in this country, freedom of the press. We certainly saw the University of California, last week, lash out against their students who were trying to express their opinions here on campus (the infamous Pepper Spray incident). Your thoughts about the behaviour of the University of California towards the attempts of students to occupy their university?



Daniel Ellsberg: Youu know, I think the point that Mario Savio made so long ago was that an institution like this and the executive branch of the United States and the police and the Berkeley police really can´t help themselves when confronted with dissent like this, their instinct to opression is just irrepressable. A new device of opression in this country in the last ten years has been the `zone of dissent´, in conventions or other places the police mark off a particular street and put people behind a cage somewhere, you know, behind fences, and say: „have your dissent here“.


Well, this is our `zone of dissent´ here (pointing backwards to the Sprowl Plaza filled up with students) and we are going to stand in it. The tent that I am staying in here tonight is a very nice `zone of dissent´ and one that I am proud to be in and I am not feeling constrained at all.



Daniel Ellsberg Joins UC-Berkeley’s “Occupy Cal” Encampment by John Hamilton,
Source: http://www.occupymedia.de/?p=536; produced November 15th, 2011;
last retrieved December 7th, 2011;
uploaded on vimeo 11-17-2011 - http://vimeo.com/32231381;
John Hamilton on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/user2216554

San Francisco, CA, PacificaEveningNews.org/; Three nights a week I anchor the Pacifica Evening News, airing on KPFA-Berkeley, KFCF-Fresno, and KPFK-Los Angeles. Other nights, I moonlight as a freelance journalist, with experience in television production and post production.”

More videos in this context:
- Police Raid Occupy Oakland for a Second Time, November 14, 2011
- Scenes from Occupy Cal: As many as 10,000 flood UC-Berkeley’s
Sproul Plaza, Nov. 15, 2011