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Thursday, November 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Officials praise new limits on free speech

Federal officers in Spokane were pleased with a new amendment to the espionage act, which would allow them to arrest and prosecute people engaging in all kinds of “seditious” speech, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on June 5, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Federal officers in Spokane were pleased with a new amendment to the espionage act, which would allow them to arrest and prosecute people engaging in all kinds of “seditious” speech, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on June 5, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Federal officers in Spokane were pleased with a new amendment to the espionage act, which would allow them to arrest and prosecute people engaging in all kinds of “seditious” speech.

“They can think what they want to, but they’ve got to keep their mouths shut,” said one officer.

The new law made it illegal to insult the flag; to intentionally obstruct the sale of Liberty bonds (war bonds); to “utter or print any disloyal, profane or abusive language” about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution, or the military or naval forces; to incite or encourage resistance to the United States; or to display the flag of any foreign enemy.

One provision in the new statute was aimed directly at the Wobblies. It prohibited any language which advocated any curtailment of the production of items necessary to the war effort. This meant that it might be seditious, for instance, to encourage strikes in lumber camps.

The federal marshal and district attorney said they were “satisfied that they will be enabled to deal promptly with that class of people who have aggravated the loyal citizens of this community.”

From the Russian beat: Philip G. Peabody, who spent considerable time in Russia recently, told the Spokane Ad Club that “Russia is in a state of chaos.”

“The rich people are cleaning the streets of Petrograd under a guard of their former servants in uniform,” he said. “A noted Russian general is selling papers on a street corner in the remnants of a uniform he wore while head of the Russian army. The police have been abolished. There is no order, nor court. The factories are all closed and the raw materials on hand have been stolen by the laborers. The situation is as bad as it could be.”

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