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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 Rexroth, the 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.


Additional 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 streets.

"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.

Source: 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 Digger chronology.


The Quintessential Digger Manifesto [Cat. No.: DP025]
"...all responsible citizens are asked to turn in their money."
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]
 
 
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