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Free Speech Fight 1912-2012 Exhibition Opening Night


Friday, the 8th of January, was the opening of an exhibition for the 100th anniversary of the San Diego IWW Labor Organizing/Free Speech Fight. The exhibition is being held for the rest of the month at the Centro Cultural De La Raza (2125 Park Blvd. Balboa Park), and is sponsored by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, local unions, college programs, and others.

The exhibition is composed of historical photos and posters from the IWW Labor Organizing/Free Speech Fight, and original artwork inspired by the events of the fight.

Speakers included Lorena Gonzalez, Kelly Mayhew and Jim Miller:
"The fight happened on the streets of San Diego, and rather than taking it to court, union members, IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) members, activists from throughout the western United States fled to San Diego and challenged the law by getting up and speaking on soapboxes. There were mass arrests, people were tarred and feathered, the jails were overflowing."
"During the winter and spring of 1912 members of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, and their allies in labor and the community engaged in a pitched battle against the city ordinance that banned public speaking in the area around 5th and E St. in downtown San Diego. During the course of this struggle, many were arrested beaten and even killed for asserting their right to public speech and assembly, for the simple right to stand on a soapbox and speak. This was probably the most glaring example of how slim the American rights were for those who held unpopular political opinions at the time. While the repression shut down the soapboxers at 5th and E temporarily, the right to free speech was eventually restored to San Diegans in 1915, when the ban was overturned and legal picketing was established as a basic right."
So they would stand on the corner and said 'Fellow workers and friends, how come you got nothing while Spreckels has got everything. How come you got nothing while he's got everything? Why don't you come and join the one big union?' And that of course pissed off Spreckels and the power elite of San Diego in a big, big way, So really what this was about for them was organizing. But when they started organizing, they would arrest people, one after another after another. And people were jailed and beaten and tortured and murdered… What's going on with Occupy locally and nationally, what's going on right now with regard to civil rights with the defense authorization bill, there are some grim parallels with what happened a hundred years ago with regard to the Palmer raids and the threats on civil liberties. If there is one message that I hope this gets across is the centrality of American labor in fighting for free speech, civil rights and all the rights we enjoy, and also the minute we stop fighting for our eventual eternal civil rights, they can easily go away."
Video || Fotos from the Exhibit || Background || Event Announcement

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