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BY JOHN MURRAY
N the third day of last March three men chained together
like wild beasts were hurried through a side entrance of the Arcade railroad station at Los Angeles, California, and placed on board a train bound for Arizona.
The first of the three was a curly-headed, square
shouldered man with a determined face—that was Ricardo Flores Magon. Manacled to his right hand was a small, black-eyed, trim looking figure that in spite of the coarse blue garb, which all the prisoners wore, still retained the air of a student this was Librado Rivera, once a professor in the Mexican University. The third prisoner was both younger and taller than either of his companions, and carried himself with a stride that told of the man used to the saddle, for Antonio Villarreal had taken many a long, desperate ride when the Mexican Liberal party needed safe-word carried from group to group. These three political prisoners were all members of the revolutionary Junta that gives head to Mexico's unrest; and to get them across the line, back into his clutches, is the one burning desire of President Porfirio Diaz' life.
Nineteen months had passed in Los Angeles since the day when the Furlong Detective Agency, in the employ of the Mexican government, had dragged these three patriots to the county jail, there to be held “incommunicado” upon orders from United States Attorney Oscar Lawler. The Supreme Court of the United States at Washington had refused them bail—although they were neither robbers nor murderers—and month after month their trial was put off so that their term of imprisonment as supposedly guiltless men threatened to be longer than any possible conviction under the United States law could give them.
But why this man-hunt after those whose only offense against their country's government is to have unceasingly fought for constitutional rights ?
Why does Diaz want them?
Here is the answer from three different witnesses, whose point of view is unbiased and as far apart as the North Pole is from the South. This is what Fredrick Palmer says, writing in the Chicago Tribune of February 22:
"In one sense Diaz has to answer for the sins and errors of the Zelayas, the Castros and the Cabrerars, who justify their careers by his. When they execute men without the formality of a trial they point to his own merciless extermniation of his enemies.
"I heard one old resident estimate that the execution of 30,000 men stood to Diaz's account. Such is his power that a score of malcontents may be shot without anybody except their neighbors being the wiser.
"On one occasion, when he was asked by wire what disposition to make of a certain revolutionist who had been captured, his prompt unexpurgated answer, I am told, was: “Kill him while he is hot.”. And perhaps an hour later he was at a re ception, bending in Castilian dignity to receive a bouquet from a party of school children.
"Through his hands pass the innumerable concessions; his the favors to grant All capital asks is stability. Diaz was the strong ruler who guaranteed it. Selfinterest makes every foreign resident a Diaz man. Every promoter of any great industry welcomes a single head rather than many heads to deal with. Thus all outsiders support the despotism.”
Palmer writes from the investing capitalist's point of view and therefore cannot be said to exaggerate the tyranny of the Mexican Dictator. But there are others who have spoken plainly, men whose word is unques
tioned by many millions of American citizens; let us hear Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor:
"In Mexico, men, women and children have been shot down for joining in unarmed parades in favor of popular elections, and the man who wishes for liberty or justice has to whisper that wish below his breath.”
Another witness, the leader of the Social Democrats in Milwaukee, Victor Berger, speaks as follows:
"These political prisoners are Mexican patriots, and if they are criminals and deserved to be jailed so were the German revolutionists of '48, Carl Schurz, Franz Siegel and a host of other American citizens.”
A day and a night passed on the Arizona train—the prisoners ali the while shackled--and on the morning of March 4th they arrived in Tucson and were hurried to the Federal prison of that place to await May 5th, the day of their trial in Tombstone.
And these three are not the only Mexican patriots captured on American soil—not by a long score. One American detective agency alone has returned into the waiting hands of the Diaz soldiery across the line, ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY MEXICAN POLITICAL PRISONERS.
Encouraged by the easy manner in which his political enemies could be arrested in the United States, Diaz has gone one step farther and has begun the systematic suppression of all papers published in the Spanish language in the country which criticizes his acts of tyranny. Here is the evidence:
“Deputy United States Marshal W. A. Carpenter this morning went to the McLennan county jail and there re-arrested Antonio de P. Araujo, the alleged Mexican revolutionist who was taken into custody here two or three weeks ago on charge of violating the neutrality laws of the United States in publishing incendiary newspapers in the state and by stirring up revolutionary sentiment among the Mexicans here and in other ways aiding and abetting the attempted revolution in the sister republic.”—Times-Herald, Waco, Texas.
A free press has supposedly been the one unassailable liberty still possessed by the American people and yet a more flagrant case of press censorship than this suppression of Araujo's paper could not be found in Russia,
What will Americans do in support of the right of asylum in this country?--that is the question which these political prisoners and the Political Prisoners' Refugee Defense League will unceasingly continue to ask until the right answer is given.
T was not a rash deed born of sudden daring impulse,
as the guards believe to this day. It was a carefully planned, well-calculated escape. Perhaps the guards would not believe this if it were told them. That a short-term convict would deliberately take such risks
for mere freedom is not to be believed, until you consider the convict.
He was born on the little island of Illyria, among the salt marshes of the Louisiana coast. His boyhood sports on land and in water, and also in the air among the branches of great live oaks, had given him the wiriness and agility of a panther. His life in the open-days and nights spent in hunting deer, bear, catamounts and sea fowl—had given him almost inexhaustible stores of strength and endurance. So to him the risks were not so great as they seemd to the onlookers and freedom was as the very breath of life. He had never thought of freedom, save as fishes may think of the sea, until suddenly it was taken from him. Then it was all.
We may also consider, though the convict did not, the fact that most of the guards considered him innocent.
“Hell!” said one old guard, “I been here fifteen years an' we ain't had no Illyria geezers here yit. Them folks don't come to the penitentiary. They ain't got no churches."
The convict had helped build the short spur of railroad running out to the new camp to which they were taking him, and had noticed that a small stream of water which they had bridged, softened the soil for several feet on either side of it. He had jumped for this stream from the window of the moving convict train, and had counted on its shallow banks to protect him from the fire of the guards.
There was a great field of sugar cane on either side of the railroad; not half a mile distant was a bayou down which he could easily swim twelve miles to the Father of Waters. Twenty miles down its banks were friends, food and safe hiding. He crawled along the little stream to the cane field. Later, in order to elude the hounds, he would take to the bayou.
Once in the sheltering cane field he leaped to his feet cursing, in fluent Creole patois, the manacles on his ankles. · Fortunately his
hands were free. He went down the cane rows in great leaps, barely touching his hands to the earth. His mode of locomotion resembled closely that of a kangaroo.
He heard the train slow down and stop. He heard shouting and then silence, and the running of the guards and the rustling of the cane. As the footsteps came nearer he dropped to the ground. Each row of cane forms a thick, leafy screen and there was hope for the convict so long as no guard happened into the same row with himself.