Weird California
Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Invisible Free Speech Monument

Map Sather Road, Berkeley, California 94704

Column of Earth and Air - picture courtesy of Mark and Stephanie Olsen
Column of Earth and Air - picture courtesy of Mark and Stephanie Olsen

This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity's jurisdiction." - Inscription chiseled into the Column of Earth and Air

Mark cheers for Free Speech!
Mark cheers for Free Speech!

There's a six inch wide hole, located inside a six foot wide granite circle in Berkeley, and according to the inscription on the granite circle, the soil in that hole and the air space above it is not regulated at all. In that tiny tube of air anyone can say anything they want.

Free Speech Monument in Berkeley - picture courtesy of Mark and Stephanie Olsen
Free Speech Monument in Berkeley - picture courtesy of Mark and Stephanie Olsen

Located near Sproul Hall, the monument, properly called "Column of Earth and Air" is suppose to extend all the way up to the limit of U.S. controlled air space which is 60,000 feet. It was built to commemorate the Free Speech Movement that started in the fall of 1964 in the very same plaza that the 60,000 foot pillar of air now stands.

In 1989, on the 25th anniversary some professors at Berkeley organized a competition in order to design something to commemorate the Free Speech Movement and Mark Brest van Kempen won with his column of earth and air. Mark was then a graduate student at San Francisco Art Institute. The monument to Free Speech was erected in 1991. It has the quote at the beginning of this article chiseled around the six foot granite portion.

Photos of the Free Speech Monument courtesy of Stephanie and Mark Olsen


Last Edited: 2015-09-27

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