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The memorial concludes: “We have no doubt of our ability to…maintain law and order in the city without aid from the state or any outside source whatever.”

The city council passed the document unanimously. Superintendent of police John Sehon and Chief Detective Myers (“chosen because of his knowledge of the local situation”) took the “memorial” to Sacramento on April 27.

In the days that followed, newspapers around the country addressed the “San Diego situation.” The Boston Advertiser praised “the plucky little city” for teaching anarchists and terrorists “some lessons.” Others honored the “patriotic citizens” and defenders of freedom, though the New York Times objected to the “compulsory osculation” — the kissing of the flag.

“We are fighting for our homes,” the Union quoted a vigilante. “Putting down rebellion and stamping out anarchy is rough, unpleasant work…the people of San Diego are doing it manfully and vigorously and, to their credit, have not asked for state aid.”

Sehon and Myers met with Governor Johnson. Sehon reported that the “governor was pleasant about the entire affair,” and would not send troops.

After that announcement, the city quieted down, but rumors escalated. Over 100 Wobblies had boarded a southbound train in Los Angeles. One thousand workers were mobilizing in San Francisco. Led by either the anarchist Emma Goldman or labor icon “Big Bill” Haywood, the San Diego Sun warned that they would “assail the government, the church, [and] the flag, because these things stand for the conservative forces of society.”

A persistent rumor in early May: at least 150 Wobblies had snuck into town. Locals housed and fed the “slipshod specimens of humanity” in shacks and at IWW headquarters, a rundown, two-story house at 13th and K. Police patrolled regularly but made no arrests, even though robberies — of cash and watches — had increased in the vicinity. They wouldn’t enter the building until an outbreak occurred.

“The gang,” wrote the Union, “is somewhat demoralized without any definite object in view.” Chief Wilson said they no longer had leaders, since Kasper Bauer, Harry McKee, Dave Brooks, and Jack Whyte were either in jail or had left the area. And if they were awaiting the arrival of Goldman or Haywood, Wilson said, police would “handle Goldman and her satellites. There is only one thing I have to fear — that we will have to restrain our own citizens, aroused to such a pitch by the indignities heaped upon them by such a horde that they will commit open acts of violence.”

On May 6, officers met a Santa Fe train at the Old Town station and arrested 33 men wanting to take part in the free-speech fight. Wilson promised that police would drive them to the city limits “in broad daylight, and it will be done according to the law.” The reference to “daylight” suggested a possible change in policy. What happened next erased it.

The Assault at 13th and K: Police Version
On May 7, around 8:30 p.m., off-duty officers H.C. Stevens and R.H. Heddon were walking home from work. Earlier that evening, they’d broken up a free-speech rally at Soapbox Row. They decided to pass by “IWW Headquarters” at 13th and K to see if all was quiet.

Two men stood shadowed in the doorway. From the sidewalk, Heddon thought he recognized them from the rally. When he asked, “What are you doing here?” one sprang at him with an axe, hacking Heddon over the right eye.

If he hadn’t jerked away at the last second, Heddon told a reporter, his head would have been “cleaved in twain.”

Sprawled on the ground, his vision clouded with blood, Heddon drew his service revolver and fired three times, hitting the assailant in the stomach and the legs. The wounded man crawled away.

In that instant, at least two other men — some accounts say four — sprang from behind a corner of the house and opened fire on the officers. Stevens was shot twice from behind, in the neck and upper right arm. The officers returned fire. After a brief gunfight, “about a dozen shots,” the shooters fled into darkness.

Assault at 13th and K: IWW Version
Even though he’d never mounted a soapbox, Joseph Mikolasek was one of the first Wobblies arrested in the free-speech fight. He became the court’s test case for violating the ordinance. On March 9, Judge Puterbaugh gave him 30 days. Back on the street, Mikolasek became even more outspoken — for the cause and against the brutalities he’d witnessed in jail.

Earlier in the day, police officers billy-clubbed Mikolasek repeatedly at Soapbox Row. At 8:30 p.m., as he stood in the doorway at 13th and K, two blue-coated policemen approached. He recognized their faces in the semi-darkness, until one turned a flashlight on his eyes and ordered him outside.

The other shot him in the leg.

Mikolasek grabbed an axe just inside the doorway and swung at the flashlight in self-defense. The downed officer fired in all directions. He hit Mikolasek in the stomach, and, spinning around, hit the second officer at least twice. Mikolasek crawled down to Tenth Street and begged Mrs. Frank Fuqua for help. She called the police.

Mikolasek died 19 days later. On his deathbed, he swore that Stevens and Heddon had beaten him “savagely” at the IWW rally and followed him home for “more of the same.”

The six Wobblies arrested at the house said that Mikolasek had acted in self-defense. There were no assassins, and Heddon shot Stevens by mistake. They also mentioned a third policeman, who rode up on a motorcycle and fired the first shot.

A later search revealed that the “headquarters” was only one downstairs room, where six or eight men stayed. Most of the other residents were Latino families unaffiliated with the IWW. In the room, police found stacks of Wobbly literature, including documents that showed “an organized attempt to launch a civil war in this city.” According to one report, they also found three revolvers, two rifles, ammunition, and a Maxim silencer that made no more noise than an air rifle.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 7 | Part 8

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Comments

dwjacobs June 30, 2012 @ 6:21 p.m.

San Diego has always been something of a country of its own... with the roots of public actions usually quite deeply hidden, the trunk and branches a bit more visible, while the leafy public pronouncements veil almost everything. It's also interesting to review this material, and see how common and global these vigilante techniques of terror turned out to be. You can see some form of the righteous "1000" (or its equivalent) coming to life in so many different countries in the first half of the 20th C. Good citizens doing good things to put things back in "order"... to set things "right." The results are often an astonishing manifestation of lawlessness... while protecting that lack of respect for law and order onto the "Other."

Aeschylus tried to wrap his art around this 2500 years ago. Have we gotten anywhere? It suddenly crosses my mind... on hearing of King's assassination just before a public speech in a poor black Indianapolis neighborhood, after being deserted by his police escort, Robert Kennedy got up on a flatbed truck and gave the mostly black crowd the sad news, and then quoted Aeschylus:

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget / falls drop by drop upon the heart, / until, in our own despair, / against our will, / comes wisdom / through the awful grace of God.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

Here's a link to RFK's speech. Audio

Indianapolis remained peaceful as other cities blew up, so this is an interesting example of rhetoric that gives us pause, as contrasted with rhetoric that inflames.

Two months after this speech, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Jill Ballard July 2, 2012 @ 4:09 p.m.

We need to resurrect an opposition to the wage-slave system!

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