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"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop."

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Mario Savio

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Mario Savio

(1942 - 1996)

Mario Savio was an incendiary student leader of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s, a movement credited with giving birth to the campus "sit-in" and with being a model for the protests against the Vietnam War. In the 1960s, Savio, a fiery, inspiring orator whose father was a machine punch operator, was an adversary of Clark Kerr, the University of California president, who referred to the university as a factory and dismissed the Free Speech Movement as "a ritual of hackneyed complaints."

Savio is remembered for the words he spoke on Dec. 2, 1964, from Sproul Plaza in front of Berkeley's main administration building, to a large crowd of protesters, many of whom took part in a sit-in inside the building and a campus strike. The police arrested 800 of the protesters in what was the largest mass arrest in California history.

The sit-in was the climax of three months of student disorders in reaction to the university's decision to limit the activities of civil rights and political groups on the campus. Students contended that the restrictions abridged their constitutional rights.

Savio became a member of the executive committee of the Free Speech Movement, an organization representing a score of civil rights and political groups at Berkeley. At a news conference after the Dec. 2 action, Savio said it had been the most successful student strike in American history, with only 17 percent or 18 percent of the students attending classes.

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Mario Savio at FSM rally