The Christmas Day Riot and the Death a Wobbly

La Placita in Los Angeles

At 2:00 pm, on Christmas Day, 1913, the Industrial Workersof the World gathered for a peaceful rally in protest of unemployment in the city. The rally was in response to the continued recruitment of new workers into the city by local business leaders with the intent to drive wages down. The crowd of roughly 1500 people consisted mostly of Mexican laborers, who were affected most by this policy.

The first speaker was W.C. Owen, an English-born radical and editor of the English section of Regeneracion. Owen spoke to the crowd in English without incident. However, when the Secretary Treasurer of the Mexican branch of IWW, Armando Ojeda, attempted to speak to the crowd in Spanish, police attempted to shut the event down, claiming the event did not have the proper permits.

An officer grabbed Ojeda by his legs and jerked him off the chair he was standing. When a man from the crowd protested the officer’s actions, the offer assaulted him with a club, leaving a gash on his head. Police proceeded to hit others in the crowd as they began to disperse. At first the crowd did not fight back. However, angered, the crowd began to respond by pelting the police officers with rocks. Police then began to open fire into the crowd.

The disturbance moved from the fountain in the center of the Plaza to the top of Sanchez Street on the south side of the Plaza near the Pico House. During the commotion, a Mexican anarchist and member of the IWW, Rafael Adames, was shot. The officer that shot him, Alfred Koenigheim, claimed that Adames was pointing a “vicious-looking .38” at a fellow officer. It was for this reason that he claimed he opened fire at Adames. However, no gun was ever found.

Raphael Adames was taken across the street to the IWW headquarters on Los Angeles Street in Chinatown. They laid him down on a bench underneath a picture of Karl Marx, where he soon passed.

The riot continued until 7:30 pm with pitch battles taking place in the surrounding area between police and Mexican residents. By the next day, the streets were cleared and martial law was imposed. The LAPD began a series of raids of businesses in the area looking for alleged suspects.

In total 73 people were arrested; of those, 53 were Mexican. 40 were eventually tried; 10 were convicted. One juror was later quoted to say, “We had to convict some of them. We must support the police. They protect our property.”

In the wake of the riot, pro-business and government contingents pushed for a city ordinance to ban public speaking without a permit. The ordinance was passed thanks to the anti-Mexican and immigrant rhetoric used by the pro-business side. However, a progressive element within the city council was able to alter the ordinance allowing free speech within the Plaza only.

Most important was the ban on tamale wagons near and around the Plaza. Police claimed that idlers would hang around the wagons and absorb new ideas of unrest and revolt sown by the I.W.W. and anarchist orators. Some suggested that the railroads nearby were also responsible for this “horde of Spanish-Indian half-breeds in the city.”

As for Adames, he left behind a wife and two children, ages 7 and 11. His funeral was held on January 5th. A procession of roughly 250 people marched through the streets of Los Angeles, beginning at New High and ended at his resting place at the Odd Fellow Cemetery.

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Resendo Dorame – Wobbly and Magonista Revolutionary

Dorame's GravesiteThis is the resting place of Rosendo Dorame – an amazing member of both the IWW and the PLM. It is men like this that we must always remember.

Rosendo A. Dorame (1879-1932) was a Mexican Wobbly as well as a member of the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM.) His family originated from Sonora, Mexico but later moved to Florence, Arizona. He worked in several various occupations – barber, miner, carpenter and even briefly as a sheriff in Arizona. He joined the Western Federation of Miners and participated in the Colorado Cripple Creek miner’s strike, which lasted from 1903 to 1905.

Dorame actually helped form the Phoenix IWW local 272 in 1906. Three years later he assisted in the creation of the La Union Industrial, the only Spanish paper in the U.S. advocating industrial unionism.

In 1911, he recruited Mexican men from mining camps in Arizona and led one of the arms of the PLM invasion into Mexico. He was arrested and convicted on violating the neutrality law and spent one year in prison. After his release he organized a smelter strike in El Paso with another IWW-PLM member, Fernando Palomares. He also took part in the 1917 Bisbee, Arizona copper strike where he was a victim of the great deportation.

Sometime before 1920, he moved to Southern California and continued to raise his family until 1932, when he passed. His gravesite can be found at Evergreen Cemetery.

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La Casa del Obrero Internacional – 809 Yale Street

La Casa del Obrero Internacional - 809 Yale Street
In 1882, Los Angeles Orphans’ Home Society purchased the plot of land on the corner of Yale and Bergin (Alpine) to house the city’s orphans. Six years later, due to overcrowding, the previous two-story home was torn down and additional land was purchased to build a new home.

Sitting on nearly one acre, the new building was a tower of brick, two stories high, with basement and an attic, all with sloping roofs, rising in the center tower to a full story. Shaped like a great “T”, the front of the building ran along Yale Street with three wings that stretched west, the longer being in the center.

In the summer of 1911, the orphanage moved to a new 5-acre home at El Centro and Waring Street donated to them by a local wealthy philanthropist. Two years later, in February of 1913, the Los Angeles Times reported that individuals connected with the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) were in the process of purchasing the building on Alpine.

The Magon brothers were still serving sentences at McNeil Island for violation of U.S. neutrality laws. The PLM activities in Los Angeles were now in the hands of Maria Talavera, WC Owen, JF Moncaleano and Romulo Carmona.

With the help of funding from various sources, including Moncaleano and Carmona, they established La Casa del Obrero Internacional (the International Workers’ Home.) The Casa housed various political organizations, including the PLM headquarters and the office of Regeneracion. Beyond political activity, the Casa offered sleeping accommodations, baths and doctor’s services.

The Casa also housed La Escuela Racionalista (the Rationalist School), a school that utilized the educational principles developed by Catalan anarchist Francisco Ferrer Guardia, who argued that education was the key to emancipation of the working class. The instructors lectured the female students against the “bonds of female slavery” and the males against the “fetters of imperialist wars.”

The Casa was directed by Juan Francisco Moncaleano, a Columbian anarchist who fled from his country to avoid arrest. He and his wife, Blanca de Moncaleano, traveled to Mexico where they continued their political activities until Juan’s arrest and deportation for “subversive activity.” While in Mexico he helped to establish La Casa del Obrero Mundial (The Home of the Workers of the World), the anarchist headquarters in Mexico City, which served as a model for the Casa in Los Angeles. He also helped to establish the newspaper Luz. After his deportation from Mexico, he traveled to Spain where he lived for a few months. While in Spain, he contacted the PLM, indicating his interest in working with the organization. He then arrived in Los Angeles, immediately involving himself in the purchase of the location.

Also involved in the Casa was Romulo Carmona, Enrique Flores Magon’s father-in-law who acted as the treasurer. Carmona owned La Aurora, a revolutionary bookstore on San Fernando. (See 652 – 660 San Fernando St) He was arrested several years back in El Paso during a foiled plot to engage in a raid into Mexico targeting government buildings.

The experiment, however, was short-lived due to what seems like a conflict between Moncaleano and Carmona and other members of the PLM. By May of 1917 the office of Regeneracion and the PLM had moved out of the Yale Street location to 914 Boston Street, where Regeneracion office previously resided. La Escuela Racionalista also moved back to the original locations at 765 San Fernando Street.

Today, the property is now the Alpine Recreation Center, located on the corner of Alpine and Yale.

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Why the Black Rose?

Throughout the world, the black rose has come to symbolize many things. To some, it has symbolized death, sorrow and mourning. In the same vein, it has also symbolized hatred and revenge. In what seems to be somewhat of a contradiction, the black rose has also become a symbol of the rebirth of beauty or of the mind. And of course, it has also become a symbol for anarchism or libertarian socialism.

The Black Rose Society accepts all implications of this symbol. We embrace the hatred and the desire for revenge against all institutions that have oppressed and exploited humanity. We feel sorrow and mourn over the lives lost and suffering felt by those who have been trampled on in the name of profit and capital. With that, we call for a rebirth of society, free from abuse and suffering. We cry out for a society where a person does not need to sell their arms in order to put food in their mouth. In order for this to happen a rebirth of our minds needs to take place.

The city of Los Angeles once possessed a rich and vibrant anarchist movement. These groups played a critical role in revolutionary and class struggles throughout the world. In response, organizations and individuals became the targets of governments and business leaders. Despite the repression, the movement remained steadfast in its commitment to anarchism and revolutionary change.

Today, the rich history of the Los Angeles anarchist movement has been lost. Due to a disconnect of today’s anarchists with their past, combined with never ending redevelopment of the city’s landscape, anarchists in the city constantly walk past important landmarks for our movement unaware of their existence.

Our ignorance of the past has left our movement rootless, wandering aimlessly without any connection to our history or culture that once existed. We sit uninspired, blind to the beauty that surrounds us.

The Black Rose Society is determined to generate a rebirth of our movement into the vital community and culture that once existed. The first step in this endeavor is to reconnect our current community with its roots, to reintroduce us to our past. The beauty of our history, now covered up and ignored, can be given a rebirth. Once we are reconnected with our roots, our movement can grow and bloom.

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