From the Los Angeles Herald, October 4, 1903
TWO FREE SPEECH ENTHUSIASTS VIOLATE CITY ORDINANCE AND ARE ARRESTED BY POLICE
Crowd of Hoodlums Sees Sacrifice of League Members
Speakers Denounce the Law as Unconstitutional
Before a crowd of several hundred people and under a banner on which were inscribed the words of the first Amendment to the Federal constitution, two men were last evening arrested on the corner of Fourth and Broadway for violating ordinance No. 8539 of the city code.
This ordinance prohibits any person to idly sit or stand on a public street or alley and again to conduct any public meeting or address any concourse of people on the city streets. The arrests were made by Officers Dixon and Wood.
On Friday the members of the Free Speech League of this city advised the officers of the police department that they intended to openly violate this ordinance and, in anticipation of a scene, a crowd of about two thousand people gathered before 8 oclock on Fourth Street near the corner of Broadway [the intersection shown here].
. . . a group of men appeared, bearing an American flag, a poster with the words Free Speech League, and a large banner bearing the inscription The Congress of the United States shall not pass any law abridging freedom of speech, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble" and, underneath, Is the City Council greater than Congress?
The raising of this banner was the signal for an outburst of cheering and cries of No! No! An express wagon was pulled out, and W.S. Smith, president of the league, mounted the small stand and announced that the purpose of the meeting was to start a movement against the tyrannical and unconstitutional act of the city council and to invite arrest that a test case might be made and the law overthrown.
The announcement that Dr. A.J. Stevens [shown] would speak was greeted with cheering that seemed very general throughout the crowd, and when the speaker reached the stand, he was compelled to stand and listen to the cheering for some moments before he could begin his address.
The remarks were brief because the speaker had a severe cold and in a very few minutes his voice gave out. but while he lasted, he poured some hot shot into the men who had made he law which the league is trying to break. . . .
At this point Officer Dixon stepped up and stopped the speaker by a touch of the arm.
Have you a permit to speak here? he asked.
I have no permit, said Dr. Stevens.
Then I will have to trouble you to leave this stand and to come to the police station with me, said the officer, and the speaker, raising his voice so that all in the crowd could hear, said: I am requested by this officer to go to the station with him.
With that, he stepped from the stand.
The noise that followed was deafening. The whole crowd joined in the shouts, and cheers for the speaker were freely mixed with hisses at the police and cries against the council. For some moments, the uproar continued, and then Rev. . . . [Frank I.] Wheat took the stand, and calls for silence followed. This second speaker talked on the same lines that Dr. Stevens had followed . . . . [According to the 1904 Los Angeles City Directory, Wheat was the director of the Socialist Party Reading Room at 204 E. Second St.]
Rev. Mr. Wheat was stopped as the first speaker had been, and his arrest by Officer Dixon was greeted by a repetition of the cheers and derisive hisses . . . . the crowd was getting restless. The fanatics present began to be moved to speech and to mutter revolutionary threats; the soberer men in the audience . . . were becoming interested and restive, and the hoodlums . . . were shoving about and trying to make the matter as bad as possible.
The numberless small boys who were in attendance added fuel to the fire, and the peaceable crowd began to assume a threatening aspect. The officers hurried their men away to a [street]car, and after they were gone the throng . . . called for more speakers.
In spite of the appeals of the presiding officer, Smith, an excitable young German who gave the name of K. Bauer dropped the larger of the two banners and sprang onto the platform. He made an appeal to the crowd for the rights of an American citizen and asked, with great excitement, Is the city council greater than the American constitution? He was received with loud cheers and was constantly interrupted in his harangue by the cries of the crowd.
. . . a tall man with salt and pepper suit of clerical cut and long hair and beard came forward and wanted to speak. President Smith objected strenuously. No! No! he cried. Not under the name of the Free Speech League.
And then he ordered the men about him to put the banners and the stand into the wagon. . . .
At the station the men were booked on the charge of misdemeanor and released on depositing $25 cash bail to appear in the police court Monday afternoon at 1:30 oclock. . . .