Free Speech Fight Anniversary Exhibit Opens

v for volunteer

Well I missed last night's big opening of the free speech fight exhibit at the Centro, but I did make it to the open exhibit today. Not too busy there today.

Featuring a timeline of worker's history in California, the exhibit showcases archived photographs, historic poster prints and a few recent labor paintings from local artists.

A highlight of the exhibit is the "Wobblies" section that briefly explains what the Industrial Workers of the World union is. Also noted in this section is the California Criminal Syndicalism Law of 1919. The law was passed by the state in attempt to disrupt and eliminate the anarcho-syndicalist IWW union. Wobblies used, often successfully, the tactics of direct action and industrial sabotage in labor struggles. Perceived as a threat to the state and capitalism, the Criminal Syndicalism Law outlawed organizing, advocating and even defending organizations that promoted "unlawful" means to alter government or control of industry.

The law was an obvious violation to the First Amendment, but the worker revolution of 1917 in Russia prompted capitalists and nationalists in the United States to fear left radicals. By 1919, the Red Scare was spread coast to coast and 20 U.S. states had passed similar laws criminalizing syndicalism.

The laws persisted for forty years. After multiple attempts to overturn the laws, it wasn't until the 1969 court case of Brandenburg v. Ohio (a Ku Klux Klan trial, no less) that ruled the Ohio criminal syndicalist law as unconstitutional and narrowed restrictions that could be applied to the First Amendment.

The exhibit will run through February 12th. The Centro is open and staffed 12-4pm everyday, except Mondays.

For more info on the Wobblies..