Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

The Minnesota Trials

Published: The Masses, January, 1917.
Transcribed: Sally Ryan for marxists.org in October, 2002.

Many of our friends fail to appreciate the magnitude of the Minnesota strike, involving 15,000 miners and the United States Steel Corporation, and are beguiling themselves into the belief that the murder cases pending are not serious.

Mrs. Masonovitch, the woman prisoner, wife of one of the strikers, is a particularly pathetic and appealing figure, a young and beautiful Montenegrin woman, mother of five children, one a nursing baby. She speaks little English, does not understand the proceedings, looks frightened and bewildered and clings frantically to her children. If the parents should he convicted these little ones would be practically orphans. The older ones, twelve and eight, bright, nice boys, tell very clearly what happened on July 3, the night of the tragedy, how the deputies came to arrest their father, how one struck their mother and threw her to the floor, how the fight then started in which Mr. Myron was killed, and how Nick Dillon, the notorious gunman, shot and killed Thos. Ladvalla, a bystander. If the episode was not connected with a strike, it would be comparatively easy to clear these poor people.

The other group of defendants are the organizers, Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlett and Joe Schmidt. They are charged with first degree murder though not with directly participating in the trouble since they were miles awry, but are alleged to have made inflammatory speeches. The old "blanket" charge of conspiracy is made against them; precedented on the Chicago anarchist cases in 1886. This same charge, you will remember, was tried unsuccessfully against Ettor and Giovannitti in Lawrence, successfully against Ford and Suhr in California, and Lawson in Colorado. The lawyers here, including Judge Hilton of Denver, a famous criminal lawyer, believe that this case can be made historic, that it is a clear cut labor fight which can be used to break once and forever the hold of the Chicago precedent on the courts.

For so many defendants and such a complicated case, we require several excellent lawyers and have engaged John A. Keyes of Duluth; Mayor Power of Hibbing, Arthur LeSeur of People's College, Fort Scott, Kansas, and Judge Hilton of Denver. The cost we have estimated at $25,000,000, which may seem large, but is relatively small considering the reputation of these lawyers and the costs of similar trials elsewhere. The Moyer-Haywood Pettibone case cost $300,000,000; the Ettor-Giovannitti case $60,000.00. The scene of action, the Mesaba Iron Range, is sixty miles long and twelve miles wide and witnesses must be secured from every town in which the organizers spoke. We have at least twenty serious strike casts still on hand besides these, to be tried shortly.

Donations should be sent directly to James Gilday,
Treasurer, Box 372, Virginia, Minn.