Howard Zinn’s account of the lynching of the American revolutionary unionist and former soldier Wesley Everest by “patriots.”
It should be noted that this account contains numerous inaccuracies, which are discussed in the comments below. For an accurate account of the events, see this text by Tom Copeland.
Death of a Wobbly
Following the Seattle General Strike of 1919, in which the revolutionary rank-and-file union the Industrial Workers of the World was a key player, bosses and the US government stepped up the repression of the IWW.
In Centralia, Washington, where the IWW had been organising lumber workers, the lumber interests made plans to get rid of the IWW. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day, the Legion [a “patriotic” group] paraded through town with rubber hoses and gas pipes, and the IWW prepared for an attack. When the Legion passed the IWW hall, shots were fired – it is unclear who fired first. They stormed the hall, there was more firing, and three Legion men were killed.
Inside the headquarters was an IWW member, a lumberjack named Wesley Everest*, who had been in France as a soldier while the IWW national leaders were on trial for obstructing the war effort. Everest was in army uniform and carrying a rifle. He emptied it into the crowd, dropped it, and ran for the woods, followed by a mob.
He started to wade across the river, found the current too strong, turned, shot the leading man dead, threw his gun into the river, and fought the mob with his fists. They dragged him back to town behind an automobile, suspended him from a telegraph pole, took him down, locked him in jail. That night, his jailhouse door was broken down, he was dragged out, put on the floor of a car, his genitals were cut off, and then he was taken to a bridge, hanged, and his body riddled with bullets.
No one was ever arrested for Everest’s murder, but eleven Wobblies (IWW members) were put on trial for killing an American Legion leader during the parade, and six of them spent fifteen years in prison.
This article was taken from Howard Zinn’s excellent A People’s History of the United States.
We heartily recommendyou buy A People’s History of the United States now.
OCRed by Linda Towlson and lightly edited by libcom – US to UK spelling, additional details, clarifications and links added.
* Zinn mistakenly refers to Wesley Everest as Frank Everett.