City Council to Commemorate San Diego Free Speech Centennial – Tuesday, Feb 7

by on February 6, 2012 · 3 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, History, Labor, San Diego

It has leaked out: tomorrow, February 7th – the San Diego City Council  will issue a proclamation commemorating and basically “apologizing” for what happened 100 years ago in regard to suppression of free speech during the infamous San Diego Free Speech Fight of 1912.  The proclamation will be presented to ACLU at the City Council meeting (see below).

This is extremely important in light of the current suppression of free speech at the Civic Center – nicknamed “Freedom Plaza” by Occupy San Diego.  OSD and their supporters, and other civil libertarians throughout the City are invited to attend this commemoration.  As best we can tell, it will occur at the opening of the City Council meeting, which begins at 10:00 a.m. in the Council Chambers, 12th floor of City Hall.

Some activists do want to attend and make comments during the “comment” phase of the issuance of the proclamation, with their comments essentially focusing on the need for another proclamation that addresses the suppression of free speech and arrests and violence against those who have spoken out at Civic Center since October 7, 2011.

Arrest of Occupy San Diego activists during Mayor Sanders' State of the City Address. Photo by Sam Hodgson.

The irony of the situation is not lost on us. If you read the proclamation as written – below – it definitely lends itself to what has been happening of late, and only needs to be updated to cover the current history of what has gone down at the Plaza right outside City Council Chambers.

Perhaps an apology to Occupy San Diego is in order, and some even muse that perhaps all the arrests need to be voided and money reimbursed for bail bonds that were paid out and most of the charges dropped.

Don’t forget, that there will also be an event in commemoration of the event and proclamation on Feb 8 @ 6pm at 5th & E by the San Diego Labor Council and others.  (Hat tip to Anita S.)

100 Year Cerebration of Free Speech

February 7, 2012

Presented by Councilmember Marti Emerald and Councilmember Todd Gloria

WHEREAS, free speech and freedom of association are among the fundamental tenets of our democratic republic; AND

WHEREAS, in the past 100 years, we have evolved our legal interpretations to recognize that it is vital to our democracy to allow free speech for all, even those with whom we vehemently disagree; AND

WHEREAS, in 1912, workers of all walks of life, led by the I.W.W., Local 13, gathered in San Diego streets to protest and speak out against economic injustice and joined the national struggle to affirm tile rights of all under the United States Constitution; AND

WHEREAS, in that same year, the San Diego City Council passed Ordinance No. 4623 banning any type office speech or assembly in a 49-block radius of downtown San Diego; AND

WHEREAS, this ordinance read, in part: “It shall be unlawful for any person to address any assemblage, meeting or gathering of persons or hold or conduct any

public meeting or make or deliver any public speech, lecture or discourse or sing any song or songs or take part in any public debate or discussion in or upon any .public street or alley within that certain district in the City of San Diego…” AND

WHEREAS, this ordinance suppressed the free speech of all citizens of San Diego; AND

WHEREAS, the downtown Stingaree district was the heart of the working class in San Diego who had the most to learn about the economic injustice of the day but were denied the opportunity to benefit from robust public discussion on the issues affecting them, for fear of imprisonment and monetary fines; AND

WHEREAS, those affected, and others who were appalled by these free speech restrictions, stood up to police and fought for their right to protest; they were subsequently abused and held in local jails—some without trial for a period of up to six months; AND

WHEREAS, the City of San Diego and Chief of Police turned a blind eye to the violence perpetrated by police and vigilantes, allowing vigilantes to brutally tar and feather nationally known activist and “physician to the poor,” Dr. Ben Reitman, and forcing him and his companion, Emma Goldman, out of San Diego;


WHEREAS, individuals such as George Marston, an important San Diego business leader and father to Helen Marston, who would later go on to found the local American Civil Liberties Union, refused to sign the petition to have speakers driven off the streets and instead publicly advocated for the five speech of all; NOW,


BE IT PROCLAIMED, by the Council of the City of San Diego, that this Council, for and on behalf of the people of San Diego, on this 100th anniversary of the historic San Diego Free Speech Fight, does express its deep dismay for our predecessors’ actions and formally reiterates the Council’s repudiation of this shameful ordinance.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar hank pfeffer February 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm

A hundred years late. The lesson about freedom of speech is still unlearned.


avatar rick trujillo February 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm

This is straight out of the “Twilight Zone.” How to challenge, expose and answer this charade?This is up to our competent and dependable lot who can attend and retort. From their (city council and mayor) perspective, it’s in your face (ours) gall from the clowns. How smug.
It will serve a purpose, however, to enlighten future generations of the complete ignorance and utter vanity of the toxic waste of their system and the polluted politicians who offer nothing but poison……..only a malignant mind can attempt to pay homage, with a straight face, to the real citizens that graced San Diego with courage, some years ago and now—we are the continuation and they know it. This oblique gesture ,if that what’s intended, is inadequate. But we got their attention, yes, comrades and friends of Occupy?


avatar editordude February 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

We’re hoping to have a full report by participants in this morning’s “commemoration”. Stay tuned.


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