Friday, 24 December 2021

shouting fire in a crowded theatre

Though sadly not the only nor the most deadly historically antecedent for ruling speech or expression (and by extension press and assembly) not subject to protections for free speech, the most recent occurrence prompting the argument in favour of curtailing the right to protest the draft during World War I and supported by the US Espionage Act of 1917 as a “clear and present danger,” the Italian Hall disaster in Calumet, Michigan is one source of the analogy when someone falsely yelled “fire” during a crowded party on Christmas Eve on this day in 1913, causing a panicked stampede to the exits that crushed some seventy-three attendees. The ladies auxiliary of the Western Federated Miners’ Union had organised a holiday party for striking members and their families, already six months into their standoff with management, copper-bosses which would not end until April 1914. It is believed a member of a group called the Citizens’ Alliance—opposed to the union and their demands for better working conditions—crashed the party and caused the panic—according to several sources including a song wrote by Woody Guthrie about the tragedy, though there is no definitive proof. The 1919 case that the above doctrine upheld was ultimately overturned on appeal and reversed to rule that voicing opposition to the draft did not rise to the the level of sedition and was protected speech in 1969, limiting the scope to what would incite an imminent riot.