‘Police Fight Frisco I.W.W.’ from Industrial Worker. Vol. 3 No. 45. February 1, 1912.

‘Police Fight Frisco I.W.W.’ from Industrial Worker. Vol. 3 No. 45. February 1, 1912.


San Francisco is due to have another earthquake in the form of an I.W.W. invasion unless they allow our membership the right to speak upon the street. Recent events show that it is up to the reds to get busy with the Exposition City. The Agitation committee of Local Union No. 173 sends in the following account: Headquarters, 909 Howard St., San Francisco, Cal. January I8, 1912.

Fellow Workers: The agitation committee of local No. 173 held an open-air meeting on Friday the 12th. which lasted but a few minutes, for no sooner had the speaker started to expound the doctrine of One Big Union than he was stopped by the police. He was informed by the two officers that the I.W.W. could not hold meetings at that point nor any other place along the beat which extended the full length of Third street. When the speaker failed to conclude his remarks soon enough to please the hired sluggers he was unceremoniously pulled from the platform. As Aberdeen, Wash., had not yet come to terms at that time it was deemed advisable to postpone action for a while. But a special meeting at the headquarters declared itself in favor of holding a meeting on the same spot on the next night with the same speaker to open the speaking.

Accordingly, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Fellow Worker Russell took the platform and spoke for several minutes, his remarks being mainly devoted to informing the assembled audience that there would probably be arrets for daring to exercise the right of free speech, supposedly guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution. Before he had time to speak upon industrial unionism, two of the hirelings of the ruling class hauled him from the box in a rather rough manner, and tried to disperse the crowd. The crowd, however, were not so submissive as the police wished and they remained in the vicinity. A call was sent in for more police and even then the crowd remained to await developments. For more than thirty minutes the police held Russell, but finally took him to jail. He was released on bail to appear on Monday. Upon his appearance the judge dismissed the case in court on the grounds that there was no city ordinance to prohibit street speaking. This was satisfactory to the I.W.W. for the time being.

Fellow Worker Russell opened another meeting on the same corner on Wednesday night. He spoke for about 15 minutes and introduced Fellow Worker Wright.; who talked for nearly 10 minutes without interruption. At the end of this time, however, the meeting was violently broken up by the arrival of Corporal Lennon and several other lesser lights of the police force, who bludgeoned their way through the crowd and ordered Wright to cease speaking. Wright refused to stop exercising his right as a citizen in speaking to the people. The uniformed sluggers at once pulled Wright from the platform and beat him severely with their clubs. Several stitches have had to be taken in Wright’s face as a consequence of this police brutality. Some of the thugs of the Law and Order gang drew their revolvers and one of them was heard to remark, “Instead of beating you up I ought to have shot you down.” These are the brave protectors of the public morals, the prostitutes, and the possessions of the plutocrats.

Wright was taken to the city jail in the patrol wagon, but was later released on bonds of $60, his trial being set for the 18th. Later on, in the same evening two other, members of the I.W.W. were arrested for being near the place where the trouble had occurred. They were also released upon bail. Fellow Worker Wright had his “hearing” on the morning of the 18th and his case was postponed, with the other two, until Tuesday. January, 23.

It is generally believed that is another method of the employing class to silence our agitation. To disperse the crowds without arresting the speakers would mean far less publicity to the I.W.W. The fact that the crowds did not move at rapidly as the wielders of the night-stick desired probably resulted in the above events transpiring.

Weather permitting, we will hold another meeting at the same place at an early date. We have volunteers who are willing to fight for free speech at the expense of the Exposition City. We will establish our rights in spite of all the master class efforts, through the medium of those pimps who wear brass buttons to hide the hollows in their gray matter, to put a stop to the onward march of the ONE BIG UNION.

AGITATION COMMITTEE, Local No. 173. I.W.W. San Francisco, Cal.


Just ten days after the representative of greater capitalism of San Francisco took office, the quills of the porcupine made their appearance.

For some time the street speakers of the Industrial Workers of the World have been holding meetings in the vicinity of the employment agencies around Third and Howard streets. The vulturous habits of the “sharks” were made plain to the innocents that must buy a job. Of course, this is, not to the liking of the beasts of prey that run the agencies. Under the “P.H.” administration the English speaking I.W.W. men were not molested, though the Italian comrades had the officers “Union Labor” club dance upon their heads and had the pleasure of counting the bars of a “Union Labor” coop. But “P.H.’s” crowd waited until their political jobs were cooled off before the “rough stuff” was employed. On Wednesday night, January 17th, Fellow Worker Wright was speaking to a large crowd of workers. Wright is a young man and has experience sufficient to have the “dope” on the layout. At the beginning of his speech he noted three officers in his audience. Quite naturally three officers, at one meeting, especially when they stand together and whisper causes a sort of commotion among the auditors. But notwithstanding the nuisance of three officers whispering among themselves. Wright continued in his exposure of capitalism.

The meeting had been in session one hour when suddenly, without warning, at a signal from one of the disorderly policemen, a rush was made on the crowd. With night sticks playing upon the heads and bodies of the surprised audience, the meeting was broken up by “mad bulls.” One of the offending “coppers” selected the speaker for a victim and after landing severe blows upon his body deliberately aimed a blow at his head, it struck home, cutting him frightfully. Then this very “officer of the law” yanked out his gun and, flourishing it madly, told Wright “that I.W.W.S.B.’s ought to go to the morgue.”

Wright and two others were arrested. Their trial takes place in a police court January 23. While in the “coop” a doctor was sent for and Wright’s torn head was sewed up. We can assure Mr. Rolph that FREE SPEECH will be maintained in San Francisco under his, as it has under past administrations.”

From “Revolt.”

The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iw/v3n45-w149-feb-01-1912-IW.pdf

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