The Case in Philadelphia

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Voltairine de Cleyre

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THE CASE IN PHILADELPHIA

An Appeal

A MEETING of the unemployed was called for Thursday, Feb. 20, at 2 P. M.( by the Jewish and Italian Anarchist Groups. The hall was over-packed before the hour, and at about 2.30 the lower hall was opened for an overflow meeting. In both halls some two thousand people were assembled. The major portion were Italians; the remainder chiefly Russian Jews. The first speaker at the upstairs meeting was De Bella, in Italian; I followed in English; then Weinberg in Jewish; then another Italian speaker, whose name I do not know; and lastly Geo. Brown had started to speak in English. At this point a voice at the back of the hall cried something in Italian; what it was I cannot say, but all the people began to crowd for the door. In vain the chairman, Mr. Brown, and an Italian speaker called to them to remain and listen. In vain we protested with some on the platform against the uselessness of going out in a demonstration with so few people. The people wished to go and they went. What their purpose was, I do not know; it is possible they meant to ask the authorities at the City Hall to relieve their condition. Whatever it was, they went. And the inevitable followed. They were met by the police, who began brutally clubbing the people. Some resented this with force, and were clubbed into insensibility. Fortunately no one was killed, although several shots were fired.

In the end three Italians were held charged with inciting to riot and assault and battery with intent to kill; Comrade Weinberg and myself were arrested the next day charged with inciting to riot; and later two young members of the Radical Library were arrested for the heinous offense of having hired the hall and distributed circulars; a third young man whom none of us know, and who, so far as I am able to learn, was not even present at the meeting, was also arrested. These three have since been discharged, after having been five days in jail.

After a two hours' hearing, Comrade Weinberg and myself were held for court under $1,500 bail each, which is the present standing of the case. The State presented only one witness against us, a Mr. John Karet, who, as it appeared to me, was not over-anxious to give his testimony, and was apparently conscientious. He was somewhat confused in his recollection of events, however, and altogether in error concerning some things. He did not say that we had counseled violence, or the demonstration, but that our speeches had excited the people. The evidence of the excitement was that the people had greatly applauded.

My speech was fortunately written, and appeared in full in two of the daily papers of Friday, Feb. 21, viz.: the Public Ledger and the Evening Bulletin. Thus a great number of people have been reached, who would under other circumstances not have been reached, and while it is likely that the larger portion will condemn, some will be led to think.

In the meantime the city administration has overstepped itself by indiscriminate interference with all manner of meetings, and the reaction against them is setting in from all quarters. We shall of course have to re-establish our right to hold meetings, as we have done twice before with other administrations, and we shall succeed.

Meantime the trial may come off any day, and we ask that those who are able to assist with money for the defense, send subscriptions to N. Notkin, 2630 East Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia, Pa.

VOLTAIRINE DE CLEYRE.

We heartily join the above appeal of our Philadelphia comrades.'

Emma Goldman,
Alexander Berkman,
Hippolyte Havel.

  • Voltairine de Cleyre, “The Case in Philadelphia,” Mother Earth 3, no. 1 (March 1908): 41-42.

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