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Jim Kershner’s This day in history » On the Web: spokesman.com/topics/local-history

From our archives, 100 years ago

A full-fledged riot, inflamed by ethnic and racial tensions, erupted when a Spokane man objected to a group of Italian laborers kicking his dog.

Four Italian immigrants were in the hospital – two of them shot.

It all began when a man identified as Thomas Kelley, “colored,” said that a gang of Italians walked by his storefront, hurled rocks and epithets at him and then kicked his dog. When Kelley objected, he said the Italians chased him a mile to his home on East Riverside.

“The rioters followed and broke down the door in their efforts to secure the negro,” said the paper. “He retired to the woodshed, and when the Italians again approached, began shooting.”

He shot two men, one of whom was an innocent bystander watching from across the street. Kelley said it was self-defense and he “shot to kill” – but he wept over accidentally shooting the bystander.

The aftermath was tense. A patrolman tried to quiet down the “hot-headed foreigners.” Neighborhood citizens stood by with guns to protect the patrolman.

Later, “a mob of 200, mostly Italians” gathered at the police station. The Italians maintained “in broken English” that they were “just playing” with Kelley and meant no harm.



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