The Mayor; The Sentinel, and the Socialist Free Speech Fight of 1905
Walter Walker was not the first editor of the Daily Sentinel to wage an all-out war on the Socialist parties in early 20th century Grand Valley. I. N. Bunting was the founder and owner and managing editor of the Daily Sentinel. In 1905, he was also the Mayor. Bunting regularly used his paper to attack and spread rumors about the local socialist. Bunting was tired of the socialist attracting large numbers of spectators at their Sunday afternoon talks in the parks, so he decided to use his position to enact the arrest of his political adversaries.
On Sunday July 2nd, according to Bunting writing about himself as mayor in the third person:
“Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock Mayor Bunting ordered Marshal Wallis to place under arrest J. W. Sawyer. The reason being that Mr. Sawyer persisted in an attempt to make a Socialist speech in the City Park……Permission to use the park was refused the Socialist party, represented by Mr. Sawyer….this refusal will be maintained with all the power of the city authorities, until the law or the city council shall declare otherwise.”
The next Sunday the socialists were back. According to Bunting’s Daily Sentinel, J. W Sawyer was the first one who rose…. ”He read the Deceleration of Independence. He was unmolested during the time that he was reading, but when he was through and began to speak upon socialistic doctrines he was at once placed under arrest.” Without missing a beat S.B. Hutchinson began speaking, and was arrested. Then Miss May Saunders rose to speak, she too was arrested. This kept going until a total of seven local socialists were arrested.
Mayor and editor Bunting opined that the socialist had “no great desire to speak but to hurl defiance against the regularly constituted authority of the city government and to discredit the Sabbath day.”
Hauled in to court the next day and convicted the group appealed to the district court and had their convictions overturned.
The Grand Junction News, on the July 22nd ran the headline “No Law Broken. Judge Sullivan Upholds the Right to Speak in the City Parks.” The Sentinel ran a small and confusing article titled “Decided for the Socialist.” The socialist printed their own 4 page one-off paper with a complete transcript of the trial, and all the evidence of the case in an effort “…to bring before the people all the facts concerning the arrest, trial, and conviction of the socialist leaders for the purpose of letting the people decide whether it is a case of prosecution of persecution.”
Walter Walker would take up and continue Bunting’s crusade against the local socialist and their allies for the next fifteen years. The Sentinel would again rise to the occasion of suppressing socialist free speech in 1913, when Walker organized to drive the I.W.W out of town, and again in 1917, when Walter Walker pushed for the Home Guard to suppress the socialist paper, The New Critic.