1934 August 21

Forum Hears Criticisms of Attacks on Civil Liberties in 1934 San Francisco General Strike


At a public forum sponsored by the ACLU, a number of prominent civil libertarians and liberals voiced their criticisms of attacks on the rights of citizens in repressive actions against the 1934 San Francisco General Strike. The San Francisco strike lasted four days, and was part of an eighty-three day series of strikes on the west coast.

The strikes across the west coast included violence on both sides. Strikers, for example, attacked a stockade where employers housed strikebreakers. The police attacked strikers with tear gas, mounted police, and by firing guns into the crowds of strikers. At least two were shot and killed. and several others wounded, in San Francisco. The governor of California mobilized the National Guard to restore order. In October 1934 an arbitration award granted considerable power over employment conditions on the west coast waterfronts, including control over hiring halls.

The prominent Americans speaking at the Forum included the famous novelist Theodore Dreiser. Retired Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes sent a sympathetic message.”

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia sent the Forum a message declaring that “When civil liberties [are] abolished from the country our democracy will end.” He added that “The right of lawful assemblage under the Constitution must be guaranteed.”

San Francisco Mayor Angelo J. Rossi, however, was unrepentant. In a telegram he declared he was “opposed to those who, under the guise of the exercise of free speech, take the opportunity of attacking the Constitution of our country.”

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