San Francisco Diggers
Front-page photo from the San Francisco Chronicle (Nov 30 1966) of five
Diggers in a famous pose outside City Hall. [Click photo for larger
version.] See below for more info.
The social laboratory out of which the idea of the Diggers formed was the summer planning sessions of the
Artists Liberation Front held at the Mime Troupe loft on Howard Street. Emmett Grogan is
prominent in the photographs of those sessions. By the fall, ALF was planning a series of
neighborhood street Free Fairs. These would be the first time street art came to some of
San Francisco's neighborhoods, for example, the Tenderloin. And not only street art --
this would be the first time rock and roll bands played outdoors on city streets. Santana
would play in their home territory, on Shotwell street in the Mission District. In the
coming months, the Be-In as a participatory event model swept the country. The first
Be-In, which the planners called A Gathering of the Tribes, happened a few months after
the Free Fairs that the Artists Liberation Front carried out.
It is worthy to note that the impetus for these events, including the Artists
Liberation Front's planning sessions, came from the Mime Troupe's run-in with City Hall
and the "Arts Establishment" earlier in the spring of 1966. Kenneth
venerable critic, author, and Old Left eminence gris, first suggested taking the battle
into the neighborhoods. Ronnie Davis, the Mime Troupe founder and director, shortly called
the first meeting of artists to band together for mutual aid. From late spring to early
fall, then, a series of meetings brought together many of the avant garde, more-or-less
politically active artists, writers, actors, musicians, poets, or hangers on.
In the early Digger papers, the Diggers call for a renewal of purpose. The ALF meetings
by this time were debating allowing booths to sell food and other goods at the Free Fairs.
To the Diggers, this seemed like business as usual. There are at least six sheets that are
from this period. In addition there are several notices and articles that appeared in the
Berkeley Barb which document these nascent days.
information about the photo above:
The photo and caption ("In The Clear")
appeared with a
byline by Bob Campbell on the front page (above the fold) of the Nov 30,
1966 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. The caption text read:
"Charges were dropped yesterday against these five young men, who
gave a Halloween puppet show at the corner of Haight and Ashbury
"San Francisco Municipal Court Judge Elton C. Lawless acted
reluctantly at the urging of Deputy District Attorney Arthur Schaffer,
who said, "further investigation indicates that the charges (of creating
a public nuisance) should be dismissed in the interests of justice.
"Celebrating their release were (from left): Robert Morticello, the
sculptor who created the nine-foot puppets; Emmett Grogan and Pierre
Minault, actors; Peter Berg, a writer, and Brooks Bucher, unemployed."
Emmett Grogan, in Ringolevio, claimed that this photo gave
rise to the hippie peace sign after people adopted a reverse version of
the gesture he made to the photographer, the Irish version of the
American middle finger.
SF Chron, 11/30/66, p. 1. The photo is
captioned "In the Clear." See Ringolevio, p.
254. For more info on the
Halloween event that gave rise to the Diggers' release from charges that
were brought that night, see "The Intersection Game" in the
The Quintessential Digger Manifesto [Cat. No.: DP025]
"...all responsible citizens are asked to turn in their
This Digger Sheet is especially revealing for any
readers unfamiliar with the Digger philosophy. Although the Digger movement was broader
than purely the economic idea of Free, at its heart this was the essence of the Diggers.
Money Is An Unnecessary Evil
It is addicting.
It is a temptation to the weak (most of the violent crimes of
our city in some way involve money).
It can be hoarded, blocking the free flow of energy and the
giant energy-hoards of Montgomery Street will soon give rise to a
sudden and thus explosive release of this trapped energy, causing
much pain and chaos.
As part of the city's campaign to stem the causes of violence
the San Francisco Diggers announce a 30 day period beginning now
during which all responsible citizens are asked to turn in their
money. No questions will be asked.
Bring money to your local Digger for free distribution to all.
The Diggers will then liberate it's [sic] energy according to the
style of whoever receives it
[Graphic of a fingerprint]