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Liberty Hill

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2009 - 2017.


Liberty Hill is not much of a hill. It is also not a historic building. Liberty Hill is an idea.

In 1923, members of the Marine Transportation Workers Industrial Union 510, a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), called a strike. Ninety ships sat idle in the Port of San Pedro over issues of low wages, bad working conditions, and the imprisonment of union activists under California's Criminal Syndicalism Law. The strikers were not allowed to have public meetings. Barred from public property, workers assembled at this site, dubbed Liberty Hill, on the early evening of May 15, 1923 (2 blocks north of the monument at 3rd and Beacon Streets). The important writer Upton Sinclair began his address to the 3,000 striking longshoremen by reading the Bill of Rights. He only read the first three lines of the 1st Amendment, the one guaranteeing freedom of speech, before he was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department and held for three days along with three other speakers. Shortly after Sinclair's arrest, hundreds of striking workers were released from jail. The longshoremen gained the right to organize and the Chief of Police was forced to resign.

The strike failed to achieve all it's initial goals, but laid a foundation for future successes. The Syndicalism Law was ruled unconstitutional in 1968. The demonstration at Liberty Hill launched a resurgence of the labor movement in Southern California and spurred the birth of the Southern California chapter of the ACLU.

Today, on the north side of 5th Street between Beacon Street and Palos Verdes Street, near Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro, California is a marker to this significant and historic event. The actual site of Liberty Hill, two blocks north, was leveled to sea level and is no longer a hill. The site is California State Historical Landmark #1021. Behind the marker is Liberty Hill Plaza and The Port of Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club

Address: 100 W. Fifth Street, in San Pedro.
Accessible 24 hours.
Liberty Hill Plaza and The Port of Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club

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This page last updated: Sunday, 07-Jul-2013 02:49:14 EDT

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