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September 14, 1929: Duluth police arrest “Communists”

On this day in Duluth in 1929, Duluth police arrested three people, all speakers at a communist rally held at Sixth Avenue West and Superior Street. They would arrested six others at a similar event the following day. Local communist party leader Robert Newstrom and brothers George and Martin Kwsisto all landed in jail because they did not have a permit to gather at the site and hold a meeting. A permit to hold speaker rallies had been granted to the Union Gospel Mission, located at the same intersection, and Newstrom and his colleagues claimed to be “testing”a local ordinance about such gatherings. It was the Union Gospel Mission’s director, Rev. D. C. Dewey, who complained to the police in the first place. Newstrom, according to the Duluth News Tribune, had “expressed his desire that one of the speakers be arrested.” The paper reported that on the second night of speeches more than 1,000 communists and spectators showed up, many waving banners calling Duluth Police Chief E. H. Barber and his officers as “agents of the steel trust.” Other banners urged participants to “fight for the right to organize” and “Hail the Gastonia Strikers.” The last banner referred to a strike by textile workers at the Loray Mill in Gastoniam, North Carolina, that had turned deadly. Eight patrolmen led by Barber broke up the crowd about ten minutes after the event began. Those arrested included Morris Powers of St. Paul, called a “Communist leader,” as well as William Hill, Laurie Lehtin, Carl Maki, Kay Heikila, and Alfred Beckman—all of whom gave the same Superior, Wisconsin, address as their residence.