Date: Thu, 31 Aug 1995 07:40:06 -0400
Sender: Progressive News & Views List <>
Subject: Centralia 1919 (part I)

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Extract from The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography. My First Life (1906-1926)

Centralia, 1919

After the war ended, lawless force and violence came back, now led by ex-soldiers, fomented by stay-at-home patriots, employers and their hirelings. Many violent scenes had occurred in 1918 and 1919. The Rand School in New York City was attacked by a mob of soldiers and sailors who tore down the American flag flying from the building. The Socialist daily paper, the New York _Call_ was raided and wrecked. Employees were driven out abd beaten as they were forced to run the gauntlet of armed men.

On Memorial Day, in 1918, the IWW hall was raided by paraders in Centralia, Washington, its records and literature burned in the street, its furniture wrecked or stolen. All who were found in the hall were beaten, arrested and driven out of town. The governor, the mayor, the chief of police and a company of National Guard were in the parade. The mob action was led by the president of the Employers Association. The hall looked like a war ruin. But the undaunted IWW opened another hall. They determined to defend themselves and their headquarters from further lawless attacks.

Many attempts had been made to smash the Lumber Workers Industrial Union of the IWW, especially during and after the great strike of 1917 for the eight-hour day. Men had been beaten abd jailed in Yakima, Ellensburg and other lumber towns. Rope, tar and feathers, and clubs were used time and time again. The Eastern Railway and Lumber Company controlled much of the lumber land, sawmills, railways and banks around Centralia. The head of this outfit, F. B. Hubbard, was also president of the Employer's Association. The American Legion had been organized in Centralia after the war and was in the forefront of the canpaign to smash the IWW and imprison its members.

A blind man, Tom Lassiter, made his living at a newsstand in Centralia. Among the papers he sold were the Seattle _Union Record_ and the IWW paper, _The Industrial Worker_. In June 1919 the newsstand was broken into and everything there taken out and burned. He was warned to leave town in a note signed "U.S. Soldiers, Sailors and Marines." Later, when he refused to leave town, he was seized, beaten and dropped in a ditch across the county line. When he returned to Centralia, he was arrested under the criminal syndicalist law. All attempts of his lawyer, Elmer Smith, failed to bring the perpetrators of these outrages to justice, which emboldened the lawless elements in Centralia.

The Employers Association continually incited its members to action by regular bulletins, proclaiming such slogans as "active prosecution of the IWW; hang the Bolsheviks; deport Russians from this community; deport the radicals or use the rope in Centralia," and similar sentiments. A Citizen's Protective League was organized which called meetings to discuss how to handle "the IWW problem." The police, the Elks and the Legion participated in these discussions. A secret committee, similar to the vigilante committees of the old West, was set up. The news leaked out that a raid was being planned on the IWW hall, and was discussed by Lewis County Trades Council. Some members from there warned the IWW of the threats. The IWW issued a leaflet, "To the Citizens of Centralia We Must Appeal," in which they recited the threats and accusations against them. It concluded by saying: "Our only crime is solidarity, loyalty to the working class, and justice for the oppressed."

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