Frank Little leads reinforcements to Denver as arrested wobblies spit defiance into the face of the courts and jailers. A marvelous snapshot of the radical working-class culture of that time, which was so well articulated and fostered by the I.W.W.
‘Marching on Denver to Fight for Free Speech’ from Industrial Worker (Spokane). Vol. 5 No. 1. March 27, 1913.
F.H. Little, accompanied by numerous fellow workers from locals 452, Fellows. Cal., and No. 453. Taft, Cat., left the latter place on Thursday of last week for Denver. Colo., to take part in the fight for free speech. They are going by way of Bakersfield, Fresno. Stockton, San Francisco and Sacramento, gaining recruits as they travel. There were four good speakers to start with, as each town will be a center of agitation while the band Is mustering additional strength. It Is expected that the number of free speech fighters will grow into the hundreds before Denver Is reached. Several other cities are lining up their recruits so that concerted action will block any repetition of the outrages of San Diego.
The boys In Denver have been returning to jail as soon as released, thus keeping up the fight until reinforcements arrive. Those who have fought so far are of many nationalities, and so show clearly the solidifying power of the One Big Union.
The actions of the arrested men is also indicative of their spirit. The Red Flag is constantly being sung in the patrol wagon, within the walls of the jail and on the way to court.
At first it was impossible to secure jury trials but the police courts are now refusing the cases. A few illustrations will show the reason:
On the first morning of the fight eight men were taken to Judge Stapleton’s court. The crowd in the court room cheered the I.W.W. James White was first called to the stand.
“How long have you been in town?” asked the Judge.
“None of your business,” was the reply.
Cheering In court room lasted ten minutes and the Judge was forced to temporarily suspend proceedings.
Next was fellow worker Rice.
“Are you guilty or not guilty?” asked Stapleton.
“Guilty or not. I can’t expect justice in this rotten court,” came back the answer.
Rice was ordered out of court, but the rest of the prisoners got up to go with him so the Judge countermanded the order and addressed the prisoners: “Gentlemen, If you will treat me as a gentleman, I will treat you as such.”
To which the prisoners replied. “To hell with your gentlemanly like court. We know what it is.”
White was fined $100 and Rice $130 with costs, the other cases being postponed until the following day. Ridicule of the court followed as before.
Dave Inger was brought up a few days later with three other prisoners. The court room was ordered cleared before the trial. Inger rose and asked the crowd to stay, but without effect. Inger’s wife alone remained. A bull tried to move her. Inger rose again and asked her to remain. The Judge then ordered the bull to allow Mrs. Inger to remain.
When order was maintained the Judge was surrounded by a guard of policemen (probably in fear of little Mrs. Inger) and the question was asked: “Are you guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty of what?” asked Inger.
“Of speaking on the street,” said the court.
“If there la anybody guilty, it is you and your Praetorian guard.”
The court then asked Inger If that was all he had to say and received the reply:
“What I have to say, Judge Stapleton, is that the time Is near when you and your kind will appear before a proletarian court to answer for all your dirty work. I would rather be tried before a bunch of cannibals than in this petty, kangaroo court”
“Is that all you have to say?” asked Stapleton.
“That is all to anyone as stupid as yourself,” was the answer.
“Eighty dollars for contempt of court,” said the judge.
“A million would more nearly express it,” was the rejoinder.
As the result of the disrespect to the kangaroo court. Judge Stapleton refused to have any more I.W.W. cases appear before him and all the rest were sent to the county court where they are to receive jury trials.
The police force have not been paid for more than two months and, in spite of an unenviable reputation, the Denver police go about their work only half-heartedly while their pay Is withheld.
In order to start this fight on the I.W.W. that tool of the interests, Mayor Arnold, discharged Police Commissioner Creel who believes in free speech so long as no acts of violence were advocated. With Creel discharged, the battle began, and the employment sharks and army recruiting officers both are backing the attempt to throttle the I.W.W.
Men are now needed to fight this matter to a conclusion. The I.W.W. has carried on a continuous propaganda for several years and are commencing to show organisation results, and this is an effort to head off the One Big Union.
Protests should be mailed to Police Chief O’Neil and to Mayor Arnold. Flood them with letters and postals. But don’t stop at that. Go yourself to Denver to aid in this battle of the fighting union.
Funds to gain publicity and to care for incoming men should be sent to Peter Murray, Secretary Local 26. I.W.W., 1550 Arapahoe street, Denver, Colo.
The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iw/v5n01-w209-mar-27-1913-IW.pdf