Remembering the San Diego Free Speech Fight of 1912-1915, 100 Years Later

This event occurred in the past

Remembering the San Diego Free Speech Fight of 1912-1915, 100 Years Later

This event occurred in the past

Date and Time

  • Monday, February 20, 2012 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, Warren Auditorium

5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110




Remembering the San Diego Free Speech Fight of 1912-1915, One Hundred Years Later
Colloquium and Panel Discussion

Sponsored by Communication Studies, History, Lambda Pi Eta, and Phi Alpha Theta

The regulation of free expression and assembly in public spaces remains as relevant today in the context of the war against terrorism and San Diego’s offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement as it was 100 years ago when the city suppressed street speaking by labor organizers seeking to unionize unskilled workers. The San Diego Free Speech Fight began in 1912 when the City of San Diego banned public speaking and singing in the central area of downtown where it had been traditionally allowed since the 1890s. The ban suppressed the speech of labor activists of the Industrial Workers of the World who had been organizing the city’s multiethnic, specifically Spanish-speaking, working class.  Similar bans and subsequent free speech fights occurred throughout the U.S. during the early 20th century. San Diego’s ban was unique in suppressing all speech in the designated area, while other cities exempted religious groups. It was also characterized by vigilante violence against street speakers and their supporters throughout San Diego County, abetted by the city’s power structure and business establishment. A coalition of labor activists, civil libertarians, religious leaders, and community supporters opposed the vigilantism and eventually overturned the ban by 1915, vindicating 1st Amendment civil liberties.

The rough cut of a new documentary film about the San Diego Free Speech Fight by Fred Glass will be shown, followed by the panel discussion and time for questions and answers from the audience. Refreshments will be provided after the panel.

  • Michael Gonzalez, PhD, (USD, History) – Moderator
  • James Bartoli, MA Candidate, (USD, History) – panel member
  • Esteban del Río, PhD, (USD, Communication Studies) – panel member 
  • Jim Miller, PhD, (SD City College, English and Labor Studies) – panel member
  • Lorena Gonzalez, JD, (SD-Imperial Counties Labor Council) – panel member