Jan. 4 2012 01:51 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

Police used water to control crowds in 1912.
Photo courtesy of Labadie collection, University of Michingan
Fight for your right 

When San Diego City College labor-studies professor Jim Miller spoke to San Diego Occupy demonstrators last fall, he told them that, in terms of the police response to their movement, they had it relatively easy. Compared with protests in San Diego 100 years ago, the police and Occupy were enjoying a “tea party,” he said.

In 1912, the Industrial Workers of the World labor union and its allies fought back against a city ordinance—backed by prominent business leaders and property owners—that banned public expression of free speech Downtown, and the response from police and allied vigilantes was often brutal. The clash, which drew civil-rights advocates from around the country, is known as the San Diego Free Speech Fight. The law was finally overturned in 1915, and folks again were allowed to stand on a soapbox and say whatever they wanted. Explore the history at aftguild.org/free_speech.

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council will hold a series of events in January and February that will honor the battle, starting with the San Diego Free Speech Fight 100-Year Anniversary Exhibit Opening Event from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park (2004 Park Blvd.). The free event will feature an exhibition of historical photos; a reading by professor Miller from his novel, Flash, which was based on the Free Speech Fight; plus live music and hors d’oeuvres.

Labor advocates eventually hope to get the corner of Fifth Avenue and E Street, ground zero of the Free Speech fight, designated as a historical site.

“What the Free Speech Fight showed is that those rights that we think of as abstract, eternal truths of American life really are only as good as people make them,” Miller says. “Each new generation of Americans has to stand up and fight the rigorous enforcement of those rights, or they can easily go away.”

Whale tales

Whales are the largest sea mammals in the world and have influenced art, music and literature thanks to their beauty and mystery. On Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park, you can witness not only what amazing animals whales are but also the sort of genius creations they can inspire as the Fleet screens both the IMAX film Whales and highlights from the San Diego Opera’s upcoming production of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Dr. Nicolas Reveles, director of education and outreach for the San Diego Opera, and SeaWorld senior researcher Ann Bowles will discuss the connections between these big sea creatures and Melville’s epic story and the personal experiences that inspired it. The presentation costs $6 and begins at 7 p.m.

Young gun 

Téa Obreht is in her mid-20s, but her baby face makes her look all of 12 years old. Her age is just part of the reason critics and readers alike have been blown away by her debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife. She’s made the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” and The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” lists, but the real reason you should pick up Obreht’s book is because you won’t be able to put it down—we guarantee it. Obreht has penned a mysterious, slightly magical tale of a young girl in the Balkan country who, by recalling memories from her past, slowly uncovers secrets surrounding her grandfather’s death. Obreht will sign and discuss her book at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Warwick’s (7812 Girard Ave. in La Jolla).

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email our events editor, Alex Zaragoza. You can also bug her on Twitter.