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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: County Democrats come near to blows

Spokane County Democrats were nearly at each other’s throats over a question of censuring “pacifist” U.S. Rep. Clarence Dill, who opposed the declaration of war that entered the United States into World War I. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Spokane County Democrats were nearly at each other’s throats over a question of censuring “pacifist” U.S. Rep. Clarence Dill, who opposed the declaration of war that entered the United States into World War I. (Spokesman-Review archives)

A meeting of the Spokane County Democratic Committee devolved into a near-riot, with charges of “bolsheviki!” and “German spy!” thrown around.

The flashpoint came in a debate over whether to censure the Democratic U.S. Representative from the district, Clarence Dill. Dill was one of 50 Congress members to vote against the declaration of war and was considered by many to remain a pacifist. This outraged many of his constituents, including members of his own party.

During the debate, one of the supporters of censure, V.T. Tustin, closed by saying to Dill’s supporters, “On your side are the German spies and the paid agents of Germany!”

Instantly, there was a rush of Dill supporters toward the speaker’s desk, and a Hillyard committeeman “shook his fist under Tustin’s nose, challenging him to a fight.”

A police sergeant stepped in and separated the men. Meanwhile, an assistant U.S. District Attorney mounted a chair and urged everyone to be calm. The committee chairman pounded his desk with an inkwell, demanding order.

Enough order was restored to hold a vote. The censure resolution was voted down.

But The Spokesman-Review editorial page had no hesitation in censuring Dill. It said that he had been “trying to overcome the spontaneous outburst of righteous indignation with a lavish distribution of garden and flower seeds, bulbs from the government conservationists and congratulatory letters for newlyweds.”

The editors acidly pointed out that “the spirit of the people runs loftier and they are not as easily cajoled and flattered with cheap congressional favors.”

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