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Image of Letter from Emma Goldman
to the Editor of Lucifer the Light-bearer
Goldman's letter to the editor was published on December 11, 1902, in
the anarchist periodical Lucifer the Light-bearer. It alerts readers to
the continued police harassment surrounding her lectures and draws ominous
conclusions about the future of First Amendment rights in America.
Emma Goldman's Letter to the Editor
I came to this city to acquaint the American public with the conditions in
Russia, and to raise funds for the unfortunate victims of the Russian knout,
many of whom have been flogged to death, while others have been sent to long
terms of imprisonment, simply because they dared to ask for bread for the
suffering Russian peasants.
To my amazement I found two hundred policemen--some of them high officials, at my first meeting; men who came not out of sympathy with the starving Russian people but who were there to take me to the nearest police station should I not meet their own conception of what liberty means.
O Liberty! poor outraged, degraded Liberty. Fallen indeed art thou from thy once lofty height when every petty policeman can soil thy pure form with his foul hands, and trample in the mire of Chicago's streets thy beauteous lineaments.
Since that first meeting the police have followed me from hall to hall, threatening me with arrest if I dared to say anything against the American government. "Say what you please about Russia, but you must not attack OUR institutions," said Captain Campbell to me at a meeting on the West side.
Another little Tzar, Captain Wheeler, went his colleague one better: "I will not have Miss Goldman speak in my district." and prohibited the meeting that was to take place at Aurora Turn Hall, corner of Ashland Ave. and Division street.
Surely there must be something wrong with the American Institutions of today; something terribly black and corrupt, if they cannot stand the light of criticism; if they can thrive only when physical force is used to defend them against the light of free discussion.
This is not the first time that meetings for free discussion have been prohibited here; not the first time speakers have been shadowed from place to place. On previous occasions the Chicago authorities have had to give some excuse for such interference. They have had to plead either public excitement, to radical utterance on the part of the speaker, or some similar excuse as justification of their acts.
What excuse will they give now?
What excuse will the self-styled Jeffersonian-Democratic mayor of Chicago give for the acts of his subordinates?
There is now no public excitement; no radical utterance made--at least not in reference to "our own sacred government."
What other conclusion can be reached, or inference drawn than that America is fast being Russianized, and that unless the American people awake from the pleasant dream into what they have been lulled by the strains of "My Country `tis of Thee," etc., we shall soon be obliged to meet in cellars, or darkened back rooms with closed doors, and speak in whispers lest our next door neighbors should hear that free-born American citizens dare not speak in the open; that they have sold the birthright to the Russian Tzar disguised by the coat of American policeman?
Is it not time that SOMETHING BE DONE?
Is it not time that all advanced people unite in protest against such brutal invasion? all, at least, who have enough Americanism left in them to maintain the right of freedom of speech, of press and of assembly?
Or, are they going to wait until the number of victims of suppression increase to legions--as in Russia today?
Chicago, Nov. 30, 1902. EMMA GOLDMAN.
Document maintained at: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/Curricula/FreeExpression/chicago.html by the SunSITE Manager.