Protest law and the First World War: the case of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

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This article is a case study of the use of law in Australia against protest groups for political purposes. It examines the fabrication of evidence and the use of vaguely drawn and poorly understood laws of treason, treason felony, sedition and conspiracy against a radical anti-war group, the Industrial Workers of the World (‘IWW’), during the First World War. It argues that the trial and conviction of the men known as the ‘IWW Twelve’ was a miscarriage of justice orchestrated with the political aim of tarnishing the reputation of the anti-conscription movement and of anti-war advocates, more generally. While the men were eventually released, the episode had both medium and long-term effects. It helped justify the Commonwealth government’s decision to pass wide-ranging anti-protest legislation, and to establish an accompanying surveillance and enforcement apparatus, which in the longer term was deployed for other purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-427
Number of pages26
JournalMonash University Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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