In the early evening of May 15, 1923, writer Upton Sinclair rose to speak on behalf of 3,000 striking longshoremen at Liberty Hill in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California. Sinclair began his address by reading the U.S. Constitution. Within moments, he was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department. For the next four days, Sinclair and three other speakers were held incommunicado.
Despite police efforts to squelch the strike, Sinclair’s cause and the cause of those he championed was ultimately victorious. 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 demonstration at Liberty Hill came to be seen as a pivotal moment signaling a breakthrough in labor organizing in Southern California.
This historic victory and the acts of courage that brought it about inspired four young people (Larry Janss, Anne Mendel, Win McCormack and Sarah Pillsbury) in 1976 to create a foundation that would be a permanent resource for the cause of social justice in Los Angeles County.