When asked why the ad was not published, Shirley Haiman, display advertising sales manager of the San Diego Union-Tribune, responded: "It was an ad that was decided not to be run, and (upper management) chose not to say why they didn't want to run it."
The four artists, however, call it censorship. "They (the newspaper) don't have any policy that they can tell us, nor what the guidelines were that were broken," says Small.
The ad--which was posted, handed out and later run in the alternative weekly, San Diego Reader--was intended to be published in the Union on Nov. 2, announcing a performance that night. Even without the newspaper ad, the event was a success, the artists say.
The performance centered on turn-of-the-century political anarchist Emma Goldman. Goldman, played by actress Kirkwood, led an audience of 150 on a downtown tour of historic sites such as the Spreckles Theater and the historic free-speech area known as "soapbox row," where she was reminded of her last visit to San Diego in 1912. It was in 1912 that the city adopted an ordinance severely limiting freedom of congregation and speech and Goldman came to town to join a protest against the law.
She was run out of town by vigilantes. Her companion, Ben Reitman, as the San Diego Union reported, was last seen "on his way to Los Angeles, clad thinly in his underwear and a coat of tar and feathers . . . after being forced to kneel and kiss the Stars and Stripes and promise solemnly never again to return to San Diego."
The artists maintain that both the performance and the ad showed how little San Diego has changed, despite the eventual victory of the free-speech movement in the '20s and what they call the pretty face that Mayor O'Connor put on the city for last year's Soviet festival, funded with taxpayer monies as well as sizable donations from Joan Kroc of the MacDonald's hamburger chain and Union-Tribune publisher Helen Copley.
Weeks says, "The context is the phenomenon of the mayor inviting the Russians here to show how free we are and (her) unabashed support of unionism in the Eastern block, but the all-out war (against such organizing at the Copley newspapers) here."
According to the artists' ad, "Approximately 1,000 Guild workers (at the Union and the Tribune) have been without a contract since July, 1988." (Last month, the long labor dispute ended when the Newspaper Guild and Union-Tribune Publishing Co. agreed to a two-year contract.)
"You're free to speak in America, as long as no one is listening," says Weeks. "The Helms assault is not about funding work that shows crucifixes in urine or gay men in pictures, but about funding work that dissents from the status quo."
"The project," Avalos says of the ad and performance, "was about investigating the possibilities of participating in a society that supposedly has democratic ideals. Can we walk onto this stage called the City of San Diego and have a voice?"