• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Word of the incident shot through the city. The “riot call” blew at the firehouse: five steam-whistle blasts, a pause, then five more. Within minutes, between 200 and 400 “citizens” crowded around the police station. They collected nightsticks and formed patrols. Some carried rifles, and there was talk, two newspapers reported, “of lynching.”

By the next morning, police and citizen patrols had arrested over 80 suspects and locked them in the Mason Street School and the newly built stockade at Grape Street. Many of the “lawless nomads” had never heard of Soapbox Row.

The next day, police transferred all of them to Sorrento Valley. “Once there,” said Detective Myers, “they can look out for themselves.”

“This will mark the end of it,” Myers declared. “The people of San Diego are sick and tired of these disturbances. The climax came when an attempt was made last night to murder two members of the police force. We are going to clean the town of this element, and do it quick.” ■


  1. Richard Pourade: “The violence IWW leaders sought to avoid, in a campaign of civil disobedience, had at last occurred.”
  2. Robert Warren Diehl: “The vigilantes were no longer interested in only Wobblies or outsiders; any and all persons suspected of being in sympathy with the free-speech movement had to be wary.”
  3. David Helvarg: “Unable to hold a funeral in San Diego, which was now under a virtual state of martial law, the IWW shipped [Mikolasek’s] body to Los Angeles, [where] a funeral procession drew over 10,000 people.”


  • Diehl, Robert Warren, “To Speak or Not to Speak: San Diego, 1912,” master’s thesis, University of San Diego, 1976.

  • Dobofsky, Melvyn, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World, Chicago, 1969.

  • Helvarg, David, “How San Diego Took Care of Its Wobblies,” San Diego Reader, August, 1977.

  • Miller, Grace, “The I.W.W. Free Speech Fight: San Diego, 1912,” Southern California Quarterly 54, no. 3, 1972.

  • Pourade, Richard, Gold in the Sun, San Diego, 1965.

  • Taylor, Kate Hanrahan, “A Crisis of Confidence: The San Diego Free Speech Fight of 1912,” MA thesis, UCLA, 1966.

  • Villalobos, Charlotte, “Civil Liberties in the San Diego Free Speech Fight,” MA thesis, San Diego State University, 1966.

  • Weinstock, Harris, “A Report of Hiram Weinstock, commissioner to investigate the recent disturbances in the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego, California, to his excellency Hiram W. Johnson, Governor of California, 1912.”

  • Articles in various journals, magazines, and newspapers.

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

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


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.


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

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


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!