By LISA LUINENBURG
— MINNEAPOLIS — The Remember 1934 Committee continues to gear up for the 80th anniversary of the historic Teamster strikes in this city. The strikes, which took place between February and July of 1934, were famous for defeating the Citizen’s Alliance (an employer’s organization) and making Minneapolis a union town.
On May 4, 2014, the Remember 1934 committee marched as part of the 40th annual May Day Parade in Minneapolis, organized by Heart of the Beast Theater. The parade, which is attended each year by close to 40,000 people, gave the 1934 contingent a prominent place this year at the front of the parade, recognizing the important contribution the strikes made to the city of Minneapolis. The parade was followed by a festival in Powderhorn Park, where committee members talked to people about the history of the strike and invited them to upcoming events.
To commemorate the anniversary of the strike, the Remember 1934 committee is planning a Street Festival for the Working Class on July 19, followed by a family-friendly and union-friendly picnic at Minnehaha Falls Park on July 20. That date marks the anniversary of the day, known as Bloody Friday, when police set a trap for the strikers in downtown Minneapolis. When the pickets attempted to stop a decoy truck guarded by police, the police ambushed the strikers, shooting and wounding 67 workers (who were mostly shot in the back, as they were running away), and killing two, Henry Ness and John Belor.
The Street Festival will be held on the site of Bloody Friday, in the historical warehouse district in Minneapolis. However, the organizers of this year’s Street Festival faced the possibility that their permit request would be denied when the city of Minneapolis passed a “Clean Zone” resolution on behalf of Major League Baseball (MLB) in February of this year. The Clean Zone ordinance banned certain activities, including block events, parades, food vending, music, and the use of signs and banners, from taking place on public or private property in a large area surrounding Target Field and the University of Minnesota, where the MLB All-Star game will be played on July 15. The Clean Zone extended for 15 days around the date of the baseball game, including the date planned for the Street Festival.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately sent the Minneapolis City Council a letter urging them to reject the Clean Zone, based on the fact that “it would deny permits for a vast array of constitutionally protected speech including street protest marches … political rallies and events, and displaying political signs.”
The letter went on to state, “The proposed Clean Zone imposes a prior restraint on speech and would condition licenses and permits for constitutionally protected speech and expressive conduct on approval by MLB. … Even worse here, the City of Minneapolis is planning to give that arbitrary unfettered discretion to a private company.”
When the City of Minneapolis was originally named as the site of the All-Star game, Commissioner Bud Selig announced, “I think I can conservatively say here today that this game will produce, at a minimum, $75 to $100 million just for those five days. … It is enormous.” The Clean Zone was designed to make sure that all those profits would go directly into the hands of the MLB, not second-party vendors.
Jim McGuire, an organizer on the Remember 1934 Street Festival committee, said in a statement to the press, “It is an insult to me, and to all Americans, that before exercising my First Amendment right to speak and assemble I must first get permission from a private company. … It is ironic that in trying to commemorate a horrific violation of our rights in the past, we are now facing further violations.”
“The Pohlads, the Steinbrenners, and Bud Selig don’t get to decide when, where, and how we commemorate this important part of our history,” he said. Nonetheless, the Minneapolis City Council passed the Clean Zone resolution without discussion.
The ACLU then sued the City of Minneapolis on behalf of the Remember 1934 committee, claiming that the Clean Zone was unconstitutional. The ACLU sought a temporary restraining order, and later an injunction that would bar the city from enforcing the resolution.
A day after the suit was made public, the Minneapolis City Council passed an amended resolution, which reduced the scope of the Clean Zone to six instead of 15 days, and stated, “It is the city’s intention that constitutional rights will preempt other considerations.” The City of Minneapolis has approved a Teamster march to the street festival site on July 19, and is currently in the process of granting the Remember 1934’s street festival permits without fees.
The decision was a huge victory for the Remember 1934 committee, who will now be able to go forward with all their activities as planned. To find out more about the Remember 1934 committee and the events they have planned, please visit their facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/Remember1934.
Photo: Minneapolis truck drivers battle deputies and scabs in 1934 strike.