"Free Speech Fights" and The IWW
The IWW engaged in free speech fights during the period from approximately 1907 to 1916. The Wobblies, as the IWW members were called, relied upon free speech, which in the United States is guaranteed by the First Amendment, to enable them to communicate the concept of One Big Union to other workers. In communities where the authorities saw their interests in avoiding the development of unions, the practice of soapboxing was frequently restricted by ordinance or by police harassment. The IWW employed a variety of creative tactics, including the tactic of flooding the area of a free speech fight with footloose rebels who would challenge the authorities by flouting the ordinance, intentionally getting arrested in great numbers. With the jails full and a seemingly endless stream of union activists arriving by boxcar and highway, the local communities frequently rescinded their prohibitions on free speech, or came to some other accommodation.
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