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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago: Hot words towards National Guard land city employee in hot water

A public employee arrived before a federal court on charges of violating the espionage act. His crime: criticizing the National Guard. (Spokesman-Review archives)
A public employee arrived before a federal court on charges of violating the espionage act. His crime: criticizing the National Guard. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Leonard Gomsrud, a city street department employee, was hauled into federal court and charged with a violation of the espionage act.

That’s because he uttered this sentence to his fellow workers: “All the National Guard is fit for is to shoot down union men.”

Two witnesses confirmed that these were his words.

Gomsrud said he did not use those words. He admitted saying that he objected to joining the Guard because as a member he might be called upon to shoot at his father and brother if they were on strike.

In the current wartime atmosphere, even these words were deemed suspicious.

From the war beat: The wartime atmosphere was getting more and more tense. The words “the Marne” were in the news, because the Germans had launched a major offensive to cross the River Marne, in an attempt to strike toward Paris. The fighting was bloody and, unlike most of the war’s previous bloody battles, it involved many thousands of American troops.

A front page story in the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported that Germans were mistreating American prisoners of war. A released prisoner from Russia said that the Germans were stripping American prisoners of their clothes, even their shoes, and stealing their valuables. The American prisoners were “hungry and penniless.”

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