1928 November 16

Rep. Fiorello LaGuardia Affirms Freedom of Speech


Rep. Fiorello LaGuardia, Republican from New York, affirmed the right of freedom of speech on this day at a forum on free speech in Philadelphia. The “right to criticize public officials,” he declared, was “necessary in a republic.”

LaGuardia also criticized the widespread practice of judges issuing injunctions that banned freedom of speech and assembly to labor union officials and union organizers. He predicted that “the time was near” when the power to grant such injunctions would be taken away from the courts. He was right. On March 23, 1932, Congress passed the Norris-Lagurdia Act (which he co-sponsored with Nebraska Rep. George Norris), which outlawed the issuing of injunctions in labor disputes.

As a member of Congress, LaGuardia was a strong supporter of civil liberties. Later, as mayor of New York City, however, he had very bad record, supporting censorship in the arts and even encouraging the police to use rough tactics against criminals. See, for example, LaGuardia’s outrageous instructions to the police on January 20, 1940.

Read: Howard Zinn, La Guardia in Congress (1959)

Read the classic study of labor injunctions: Felix Frankfurter and Nathan Greene, The Labor Injunction (1930)

Read: H. Paul Jeffers, The Napoleon of New York: Mayor Fiorello La Guardia  (2002)

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