Original Document
Original Document
Pittsburgh Civil Liberties Committee Meeting, March 2, 1935.

A meeting of the Pittsburgh Civil Liberties Committee was held Friday March 2 to elect officers and decide on a proposed campaign to open some of the closed steel towns to free speech. The national office of the American Civil Liberties Union has offered funds for this campaign if the local branch will provide direction and secure speakers.

Present were George E. Evans, Ward Bonsall, John Weaver, Helen Crawley, Rose Stain, Jessie O'Connor and Arthur Rack, the young attorney selected to push the campaign. In addition Dr. Urmy, Sidney Teller, Dr. B.H. Williams, Sarah Limbach, A.L. Wills and Mrs. W.M. Parrish had authorized their vote to be cast for George Evans for chairman.

George Evans was elected chairman, Dr. Ralph B. Urmy vice chairman and Sidney Teller retained as secretary. As to a treasurer, Mr. Evans was authorized to handle such funds as there may be until the committee finds a treasurer.

It was decided to press for fulfillment of campaign pledges that the new Pittsburgh administration would set aside a place similar to Hyde Park where free speech is allowed to all groups without a permit. Mr. Rack was asked to look up city ordinances to see if they require a permit for outdoor meetings on public property, and if so, it was decided to push passage of a new ordinance allowing the mayor to set aside places where a permit is never to be required. Some thought that the ordinance should fix the places, others said that leaving it to the mayor's discretion would make the ordinance easier of passage and also allow wider extension. As many as a dozen or even 50 such places were thought possible if the experiment works well. Meanwhile a survey should be made for places where traffic would not be disturbed.

A similar ordinance, in a form suitable for smaller communities in this area, should be drawn up and urged on these communities, it was decided, with an accompanying publicity campaign.

All this is in regard to outdoor meetings. In the closed steel towns, the practice is to require a permit even for indoor meetings.

Clairton, Duquesne and Homestead were considered for the launching of the proposed free speech campaign, in the light of reports from the Amalgamated Assn. of Iron Steel and Tin Workers [AA], the Steel and Metal Workers Industrial Union [SMWIU], and unemployed organizations.

The A.A. said they had been meeting indoors without interference in Clairton, the S.M.W.I.U. said they had no organization there, and the unemployed council said they had been denied use of the schools.

In Duquesne, the A.A. has had difficulty getting public halls but is now meeting without interference in a store room it has leased. The other organizations have not been allowed to meet publicly at all.

In Homestead, the A.A. has not been able to get any permanent hall. Many A.A. men are Moose members but the Moose hall refuses to let them meet there. A.A. meetings have to be held in West Homestead, as do those of the other organizations. Homestead is closed tight.

It was decided to begin with Clairton, where the only trouble is discrimination on use of school buildings. Mr. Rock is acquainted with liberal persons of standing in that community and will try to bring pressure through them, as well as consult with them about measures in case the school board remains obdurate against the unemployed councils. It was suggested that out committee itself hold a meeting in the schools.

Next the committee will take Homestead, since it felt there are more local citizens who are willing to back up a campaign there than in Duquesne. Mr. Rack will first consult with the city solicitor, to find out on what basis permits are required indoors. If the solicitor says it's a city ordinance, he will ask to see the ordinance. He will find what groups want to meet and try to get a mandamus forcing issuance of permits. If he can not get a mandamus, he will try to get an injunction against local authorities interfering with constitutional rights. If he can't get that, he will defend any one whom the town may prosecute for exercising constitutional rights. The lawyers present felt that requirement or a permit for an indoor meeting is unconstitutional and should be tested in the courts.

It was suggested that Mrs. Pinchot and other prominent speakers be invited to the opening-up meetings. Of course labor groups will provide speakers and be glad of the chance. Mr. Evans was given full authority to direct the campaign, consulting other lawyers and Dr. Urmy and Mr. Teller when he feels it necessary.

Credit: Weaver Social History Collection: AIS 64:19, Box 14, FF "Pennsylvania Civil Liberties Committee - Miscellaneous". University of Pittsburgh Library,
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