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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Crackdown on striking Wobblies expands with arrests

 (Spokesman-Review archives)
(Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane police swooped in and raided three downtown Wobbly sites and arrested everybody inside, a total of 94 people.

The raids were conducted “quietly and without violence on either side.” Police seized Industrial Workers of the World (Wobbly) literature, records and even office supplies.

The raids were conducted by order of Spokane’s commissioner of public safety, John H. Tilsley, who said, “We are going to keep the I.W.W. headquarters and halls closed here now until all this trouble is over, or until we are forced to allow them to open again in obedience to a court order.”

“This trouble” referred to threatened Wobbly lumber camp strikes.

“Every Wobbly who won’t go to work will be ‘vagged’ and put in jail,” said Tilsley. “Officers will be kept at the I.W.W. hangouts to lock those up who come there from now on.”

“Vagged” meant police would arrest them on vagrancy charges.

The raids were launched after Gov. Ernest Lister refused to ask for federal troops and declare martial law. Lister said that local authorities could handle the situation. The city commissioners sent Lister a telegram right after the raids informing him they had handled the situation.

During the raids, about 500 “lumberjacks and other laborers” gathered on Main Avenue outside the I.W.W. Hall. Some tried to get inside the hall.

“The place is pinched,” an officer told them. “And if you come in here, you’ll be taken to jail along with the rest of this bunch.”

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