DSA Night School
September 26, 2023
Torture! Murder! Soapboxes!
DSA San Diego’s Education Committee takes a look at the history of the free speech fights in San Diego from the early 20th Century through today.
Haymarket Affair (Chicago)
Formation of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) – called the Wobblies
IWW attempted to organize Mexican workers of the San Diego Consolidated Gas and Electric Company
LA Times building bombing
Germania Hall incident. Police shut down union hall in San Diego. IWW start soapbox oratory.
Liberation of Mexicali – Magonista rebellion starts.
Second Battle of Tijuana
Grand jury said street-speaking “congested the heart of the city” and must be prohibited.
Event that gave cause to pass Ordinance 4623 – off-duty constable R.J. Walsh drove his car into a crowd in an attempt to disrupt a soapbox event. Police were beaten by civilians.
Official beginning of the free speech fight; SD city council passed Ordinance No. 4623, prohibiting free speech in a 49-block zone
California Free Speech League was created
Ordinance 4623 went into effect
Fire Hose Episode
Michael Hoy, 63, died after police beat him and withheld medical attention
Socialist Joseph Mikolasek was shot and killed by police
Ben Reitman, Emma Goldman’s partner, tarred, and sagebrushed by vigilantes. Flag rammed down his throat.
The wrecking ball razed much of the Stingaree.
Emma Goldman returns, immediately “deported” again
San Diego’s ban on street speaking (Ordinance No. 4623) rescinded
San Diego section 56.30 of the city code introduced (seditious language)
San Diego’s leaders banned free speech in a large chunk of downtown
Congress passed the Sedition Act, which said no one could “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States.”
U.S. Sedition Act repealed after the war was over.
More than 50 Occupy San Diego protesters arrested under encroachment law
San Diego chapter of the IWW was (re)chartered
San Diego repeals seditious language law
Sources & Further Reading
We’re Bound for San Diego:
Proles’ 2012 performance: https://youtu.be/b9Vhm1u8P3Y
The Free Speech Fight in San Diego
—. Spread the Story of San Diego’s Shame. Industrial Worker. 1 May, 1912, https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iw/v4n06-w162-may-01-1912-IW.pdf
“1912: The San Diego Free Speech Fight.” libcom.org, libcom.org/article/1912-san-diego-free-speech-fight.
April. “The Wobblies and San Diego’s Shame.” San Diego Reader, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/1992/apr/02/battle-soapbox-row.
Dotinga, Randy. “When San Diego Had Its Own Big Labor Clash.” Voice of San Diego, Mar. 2022, voiceofsandiego.org/2011/03/15/when-san-diego-had-its-own-big-labor-clash.
A Fight for Free Speech in San Diego | Industrial Workers of the World. archive.iww.org/history/library/misc/DJones2005.
“A Fight for Free Speech in San Diego: Davey Jones.” libcom.org, libcom.org/article/fight-free-speech-san-diego-davey-jones.
Free Speech San Diego. aftguild.org/free_speech/index.html.
Kelly, Michael. Journal of San Diego History. https://web.archive.org/web/20050210012222/http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/73winter/speech.htm.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part One.” San Diego Reader, 23 May 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/may/23/unforgettable.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Two.” San Diego Reader, 30 May 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/may/30/unforgettable-big-noise-2.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Three.” San Diego Reader, 6 June 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/jun/06/unforgettable-big-noise-3.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Four.” San Diego Reader, 13 June 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/jun/13/unforgettable-free-speech-protesters-got-fire-hose.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Five.” San Diego Reader, 20 June 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/jun/20/unforgettable-city-leaders-cracked-heads-county-li.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Six.” San Diego Reader, 27 June 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/jun/27/unforgettable-violence-against-free-speech-activis.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Seven.” San Diego Reader, 4 July 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/jul/04/unforgettable-big-noise.
Smith, Jeff. “The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Eight.” San Diego Reader, 11 July 2012, www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2012/jul/11/unforgettable.
The Life of Socialist George Woodbey Must Not Be Lost to History. 1 May 2022, jacobin.com/2022/05/george-woodbey-debs-socialist-party-free-speech.
“Porkchops for All! The 100th Anniversary of the San Diego Free Speech Fights.” libcom.org, libcom.org/article/porkchops-all-100th-anniversary-san-diego-free-speech-fights.
Wikipedia contributors. “San Diego Free Speech Fight.” Wikipedia, Sept. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego_free_speech_fight.
From the Archives: May 20, 1913: Emma Goldman returns: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/150-years/sd-me-150-years-may-20-htmlstory.html
Free Speech in the Progressive Era: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/goldman-free-speech-progressive-era-1907-1916
Dr. Ben Reitman
REITMAN DESCRIBES HOW HE WAS TARRED; Emma Goldman’s Manager Tells About Tortures Inflicted by Vigilantes on California Desert: https://www.nytimes.com/1912/05/17/archives/reitman-describes-how-he-was-tarred-emma-goldmans-manager-tells.html
Fire Hose Incident
From the Archives: Limits set on free speech in San Diego 110 years ago: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/local-history/story/2022-01-09/from-the-archives-limits-set-on-free-speech-in-san-diego-110-years-ago
From the Archives: The 1912 fight over free speech in the streets of San Diego: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/local-history/story/2020-03-10/from-the-archives-the-1912-fight-over-free-speech-in-the-streets-of-san-diego
Shady Ladies in the “Stingaree District” When the Red Lights Went Out in San Diego: https://sandiegohistory.org/journal/1974/april/stingaree/
Unforgettable: A Walk on the Stingaree Side, Part 1: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2009/jul/01/walk-stingaree-side-part-1/
Love shacks in the Stingaree: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2000/jul/06/san-diegos-chinatown-and-stingaree-district/
LA Times Building Bombing
Federal Sedition Act of 1918: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedition_Act_of_1918
San Diego City Council repeals ‘seditious language’ law from its books: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/san-diego/story/2020-09-29/san-diego-city-council-repeals-seditious-language-law-from-its-books
Photo on right and center: https://sandiegohistory.org/exhibition/sindiego/
Photo on right: https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt6n39q2b6/?brand=oac4
Photo on left: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt2000142d/
Photo on right: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt2x0nc2cr/
Photo on right: https://www.ebay.com/itm/393747683732
Photo in center: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Reitman