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Earl Rogers and L.A.'s Picketing Ban

July 19, 2010 |  2:16 am

Earl Rogers
Los Angeles Times file photo

Attorney Earl Rogers, who drafted L.A.’s ban on picketing and defended Clarence Darrow on charges of attempting to bribe jurors in the trial of the McNamara brothers in The Times bombing.   

July 16-19, 1910: While we were occupied with the Democratic National Convention of 1960, our friends in 1910 were busy approving the famous ban on picketing that was a key element in the bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building on Oct. 1, 1910.

The Times published the complete text of the proposed ordinance, which was written by attorney Earl Rogers, one of the major figures in the events leading up to the bombing and the defense attorney for Clarence Darrow on charges of attempting to bribe jurors in the bombing case.  Rogers was hired to write the ordinance by the Merchants and Manufacturers Assn., and I’ll have more about them later.

Rogers was noted for his courtroom rhetoric, and here’s a bit of his speech in favor of the picketing ban, as quoted in The Times: 

"It is war. Do you want it to be war in your streets or do you intend to pass the law and conserve the public peace? The men who want to go to and from their work peaceably must have the right to do so and be protected from the importations now busy here, some of whom I have seen before in the streets of San Francisco during times of disturbance there. It is the refusal of San Francisco to pass just such an ordinance there that led to the scenes where I saw men shot down in cold blood; where the hospital records show 732 killed and injured; where a mob of one thousand overturned a streetcar and killed the motorman and conductor and which led to the throwing of great steel beams from the heights of a 10-story building on a car beneath. Are you going to sit and wait for these things to be repeated in Los Angeles or are you going to stop it at the beginning?"

Speaking of Rogers, I was down at the Los Angeles Public Library the other day reading Alfred Cohn and Joe Chisholm’s 1934 biography of Rogers, “Take the Witness!”I must say it’s well worth a look, not only for material on Rogers but for what they have to say about Los Angeles.

I suppose it’s a sign of a complete research drudge, but whenever I pick up a book on history I always check the index and bibliography first, for here is where authors establish their credentials.

Oddly enough, “Take the Witness!” doesn’t appear in the bibliography of Howard Blum’s “American Lightning” (which isn’t indexed) or in the bibliography of Kevin Starr’s “Inventing the Dream.” Even more curious, Earl Rogers merits precisely one mention in Starr’s “Inventing the Dream” and that’s in relation to the Fatty Arbuckle case rather than The Times bombing and the Darrow trials. That doesn’t bode well, does it?

There’s more on Rogers in “Final Verdict,” by his daughter, Adela Rogers St. Johns;  W.W. Robinson’s highly recommended “Lawyers of Los Angeles”; and Michael Lance Trope’s “Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles: The Trials of Earl Rogers.”

July 16, 1910, Picketing Ordinance  

July 16, 1910: Los Angeles’ proposed ban on picketing, written by attorney Earl Rogers. 

July 16, 1910, Picketing Ordinance 

July 17, 1910, Picketing Ordinance

July 17, 1910: The anti-picketing ordinance will take effect July 19.

July 19, 1910, Picketing

July 19, 1910, Picket

July 19, 1910, Picket

July 19, 1910, Picket