The IWW's Provocative Free Speech Message
The IWW message was particularly unpopular with the business community. IWW members believed that the capitalist system was corrupt, could not be reformed, and could only be resisted until a better society could be built for all working people. James Walsh's streetcorner speeches were therefore frequently disrupted, particularly by the local Volunteers of America and Salvation Army Bands.
Walsh recruited volunteers to put together a small band, equipped with "a big booming bass drum," in order to get the IWW's message to listeners. The group practiced patriotic and religious tunes of the period, but the Wobblies wrote new words to the songs.
"To grab the crowd’s attention," the IWW band often "hid in a doorway while one member dressed in a bowler hat and carrying a briefcase and umbrella, yelled to the crowd, ‘Help! I’ve been robbed!’ The crowd rushed over only to hear, ‘I've been robbed by the capitalist system! Fellow workers ...’ He then launched into a short speech, and the makeshift band stepped out of the doorway and played their songs."
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“Next to our free political institutions, our free public-school system ranks as the greatest achievement of democratic life in America ...”
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