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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Chronicle writer credits city with ‘breaking the backbone’ of Wobblies

Writer T.R. La Senay credited Arthur Hooper, assistant corporation attorney of the city, and J.H. Tilsley, the city’s commissioner of public safety, with hobbling the organization. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
Writer T.R. La Senay credited Arthur Hooper, assistant corporation attorney of the city, and J.H. Tilsley, the city’s commissioner of public safety, with hobbling the organization. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Spokane deserved credit for “breaking the backbone” of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) in the Northwest, declared the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

Writer T.R. La Senay credited Arthur Hooper, assistant corporation attorney of the city, and J.H. Tilsley, the city’s commissioner of public safety, with hobbling the organization.

“The city stands undaunted while the I.W.W. are hedged in by laws and injunctions,” said La Senay.

He wrote that the Wobblies had long maintained the national headquarters of its lumbermen’s local in Spokane. They flourished for many years, unhampered, he wrote.

He noted that the troubles began with the Free Speech Fight in Spokane in 1909.

“It was not of great importance at that time, because the organization had not yet come forth in sufficient strength to be recognized as a national menace,” wrote La Senay. “The I.W.W. first took on a radical aspect in the Inland Empire with the beginning of the world war in 1914. … No attempt was made to molest them until their opposition to the entrance of this country into the war led to draft obstruction and threats to destroy property.”

In 1917 and 1918, their headquarters in Spokane were raided. The city passed a “criminal syndicalism” law, which was aimed squarely at the Wobblies and, in essence, declared membership in the Wobblies to be illegal.

The “knockout punch,” he said, came in 1919 when a Spokane judge issued a permanent injunction restraining Wobblies from “maintaining offices, distributing literature or advocating I.W.W. principles.”

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