Free Speech Movement Cafe reopens after extended closure

photo of the inside of Free Speech Movement Cafe
Isabella Ko/Staff
The Free Speech Cafe on UC Berkeley's campus has reopened after closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Free Speech Movement Cafe, a tribute to the movement that helped shape UC Berkeley, finally reopened July 19 after an extended closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tucked within Moffitt Library, the cafe — upon its original opening in Jan. 2000 — honors Mario Savio, a key figure in the city’s Free Speech Movement, according to the campus library website.

Savio’s 1964 “Machine Speech” on the steps of Sproul Hall vocalized students’ grievances after political expression was banned on campus, urging them to “put (their) bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels” of the machine, according to a Berkeley News article.

According to Jose Luis Diaz, an employee at the café, the walls are decorated with photos of Savio, including one of him standing atop a car and speaking to a crowd below.

Several plaques hang on the walls of the cafe, detailing prominent events during the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. Diaz said many patrons of the business have been excited for its reopening, as it is a communal space to gather and work.

True to its name, the cafe offers students the opportunity to host panels, debates or speakers to spark discussion, according to the campus library website.

The business also provides weekly bulletin boards for students to post and read information about timely political and social events, the website notes.

“On any given day during a typical semester, you’ll see faculty and staff members from across campus communing over a meal, students catching up over coffees, or visitors taking in the photos,” said Elizabeth Dupuis, director of Doe, Moffitt and the Subject Specialty Libraries, in an email. “It’s also a great place to hang out, connect with colleagues and friends, and soak up the spirit of campus.”

The cafe is known for its variety of salads and sandwiches, as well as its strong coffee. The white mocha beverage is a customer favorite, according to Diaz.

During its reopening, the cafe will continue to provide its full menu to any members of the community — not just students and staff — looking for a quick bite to eat, Dupuis added.

The cafe celebrated its 20th anniversary before its closure in March 2020, Dupuis said in an email. The Free Speech Movement Café is one of numerous other businesses on campus that are also reopening.

“Berkeley has long been an epicenter of activism, from free speech to social justice,” Dupuis said in an email. “The Library proudly serves as home to the Free Speech Movement Café as a reminder of the impact that everyday people, working together in common cause, can have in shaping our world.”

Contact Lianna Leung at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @LeungLianna.