Spokane’s P-Jammers Defending Free Speech
The P-Jammers (PJAMRS, the Peace and Justice Activist Musical Rascals of Spokane) made their first public appearance in September 2005, at a peace march sponsored by the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS), among others. We have since appeared in a number of demonstrations and events, including (dis)welcoming V.P. Dick Cheney to speak in Spokane (April 2006), a rousing finale at a retirement benefit concert for PJALS directors Rusty and Nancy Nelson, as well as non-political events such as the conference of the Association of Washington Cities, the Comstock Park Labor Day Arts Preview, and First Night Spokane.
Most recently the P-Jammers played at the centennial celebration re-enactment of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) free speech movement. In 1909, the City of Spokane passed an ordinance to prohibit public speaking. The Wobblies had come to town to organize against employment agencies exploiting laborers. Job applicants paid the agents for a job assignment; they would travel, often to Idaho, for jobs in logging and
mining, work a couple of days, get fired, and have to go back to Spokane and pay for another job assignment. Up to 500 speakers stood up in turn to defy the speech ordinance and were arrested in turn, flooding the jails.
The City eventually repealed the speech ordinance and revoked the business licenses of the employment agents. The 2009 commemoration included a series of lectures and historical presentations sponsored by the Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane Community College, the Spokane Regional Labor Council, PJALS, and others. On November 10th, there was a re-enactment of the arrest of public speakers. Participants lined up to give two minute speeches before being “arrested” by fake cops. The P-Jammers played some old Wobbly tunes: “Union Maid,” “The Preacher and the Slave,” and “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum,” with a sing-along, as well as some usual repertoire like “Down by the Riverside” (Riverside Avenue is one of Spokane’s downtown streets where we often march), “Saints,” and “This Land Is Your Land.” [See Spokesman Review article: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/nov/01/a-fight-for-free-speech/]
For Dick Cheney’s 2006 visit, we included Carlos Santana’s “Evil Ways,” and the highlight of the afternoon was playing the Darth Vader theme as the police motorcycle and black limo motorcade passed by.
The P-Jammers lead organizer has been Seattle’s Anti Fascist Marching Band alumni, Spokane Symphony double bassist and active American Federation of Musicians, Local 105, member) Greg Youmans. P-Jammers range in age from 15 to 65, and include two multi-generational families, and professionals as well as amateurs and beginners, in the HONK!band style. P-jammers look forward to building on the momentum of development and growth the band has experienced so far. Honk!Fest West, here we come!!!