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The Militant, 31 August 1946

Barbara Bruce

Minneapolis Picket-Line Smashes Fascist Rally

Workers Rout G.L.K. Smith; Shout, “No Fascism Here!”

(22 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 35, 31 August 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Aug. 22 – A united labor movement stopped Fascist Gerald L.K. Smith from speaking last night in Minneapolis. More than 1,500 pickets from AFL, CIO and Railroad unions, along with members of veterans, Jewish, Negro and working class political organizations, including the Socialist Workers Party, rallied in a fighting mass demonstration against America’s No. 1 fascist leader.

When Smith’s goons assaulted several pickets outside the fascists’ meeting place at the Leamington Hotel, the aroused workers stormed the meeting hall and routed Smith and his followers in a pitched battle.

Smith’s talk was originally booked for the Hennepin County Republican club rooms at 703 Third Avenue South. Long before meeting time, an organized picket line was formed under the direction of Walter Frank, secretary of AFL Lathers Union, No. 190, and representative of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union, who acted as picket captain.

Assistant picket captains were Henry A. Schultz, representing the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, Lodge 102, and Earl Cluka, financial secretary of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, representing the Hennepin County CIO Council.

“Stop Fascism!”

Scores of banners carried by the pickets had been distributed by the united labor committee. They carried such slogans as: “Race Hatred is Fascism;” “Stop Fascism and G.L.K. Smith;” “Don’t Be A Sucker For Fascists;” “Don’t Support Hitler’s Agent – Keep Away.” By agreement of the committee in charge, each organization carried only one placard.

Among the organizations carrying their own banners were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the Workers Defense League; the Minneapolis AFL Central Labor Union; the Minneapolis AFL Building Trades Council; the American Veterans’ Committed; the American Youth for Democracy; the Socialist Workers Party; the Communist Party; and the Minneapolis Jewish Action Committee.

Prominent in the picket line was the banner of the Socialist Workers Party proclaiming: “American Workers Do Not Want a Hitler – STOP Gerald L.K. Smith!”

March Through Loop

A group of Smith’s followers had gathered at the Third Avenue address, waiting for the door to be unlocked. Smith’s secretary, Renata Legant, moved among the known Smith supporters in the crowd and told them to assemble in the ballroom of the Leamington Hotel.

When the picket captains gave the signal, the huge body of pickets marched down the street to the hotel three blocks away, singing Solidarity Forever and shouting “Down with the fascists!” As the picket line moved toward the hotel, the ranks swelled and the singing and shouting echoed throughout the loop.

Storming the Hall

As the first pickets reached the hotel, some of the Smith goons attempted to break up the line. Several of the pickets were attacked and knocked to the sidewalk. When the attackers fled into the hotel, the pickets stormed in after them.

Surging through the lobby, the pickets were met by a knot of fascists who attempted to bar the way to the ballroom where the meeting was to be held. With a mighty push, the Smith supporters were brushed aside and the pickets plunged on like a great tidal wave toward the meeting hall.

Charging through a barricade of chairs which the fascists had thrown up to prevent the pickets from entering the hall, the shouting mass of labor anti-fascists made their way into the ballroom. In their frantic retreat, the fascists left broken chairs, tables, lamps and mirrors in their wake. Dozens of Smith’s supporters fled through the windows. Those remaining in the hall scuttled to one corner of the room and huddled there.

Workers Take Over

At the call of the picket captain, Walter Frank, all the pickets were seated. Frank’s announcement that no Smith meeting would be held was greeted with resounding cheers. He reported that the hotel manager had refused to let Smith’s meeting take place and ordered the fascists out, since the ballroom had been obtained under false pretenses. One of Smith’s followers had rented the hall in the name of the “Northwest Pioneers.”

The assembled pickets were then instructed to march in a body to the Minneapolis courthouse where an anti-fascist rally would be held. A rearguard of pickets was left at the hotel to see that instructions of the manager were carried out.

Smith came out of hiding only after the pickets left. He attempted to hold a meeting in the hotel lobby but only a handful of people remained. In one of his usual attacks on the labor movement and minorities, Smith declared to his followers that the demonstration was the work of “Jewish terrorists and Communists.”

Victory Meeting

Following their captains’ orders, the pickets marched to the courthouse, still singing, and chanting “Down with Smith!” Hundreds of workers, white and Negro, Jewish and gentile, Protestant and Catholic, along with veterans and students, poured into the hall. Here they cheered their picket captains who praised the conduct of pickets throughout the demonstration and their magnificent defense against the fascist attackers.

When Frank concluded a stirring address by stating that “the CIO, AFL, railroad brotherhoods, and independent unions must join forces in a common struggle against reaction in America,” the hall rang with applause.

Others who spoke were Milton Siegel, Field Representative and Vice-President, District 2, of the CIO United Packinghouse Workers; Henry A. Schultz, spokesman for Lodge 102, Railroad Trainmen; Henry Piper, associate editor of Labor Review, official organ of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union; and Jerrold Stoll, American Veterans’ Committee representative. The meeting closed with a pledge to continue the organized fight against fascism in America. The crowd left singing Solidarity.

Great Tradition Lives

This inspiring anti-fascist labor battle shows that the great tradition of working-class solidarity and militancy, built in Minneapolis during the thirties by the famous Minneapolis Drivers Local 544, is still alive. The spirit of labor struggle that the Roosevelt administration and AFL Teamsters President Tobin tried to crush during the war by the imprisonment of the Trotskyist leaders of Local 544, has survived.

Those leaders, like Vincent R. Dunn, played a prominent role in last night’s anti-fascist fight.

In the 1941 Minneapolis Labor Trial, the basis of one charge against him and the other 17 defendants was their advocacy of union defense guards to defend labor meetings from fascist attacks.

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