Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Scab Day!

Well, that's what I call it anyhow, since it was brought in as a replacement when the real Labour Day was locked out. May Day became associated with the labour movement after the Haymarket affair in Chicago in 1886, when violence broke out at a rally held by the labour movement:

The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies spoke to the large crowd while standing in an open wagon on Des Plaines Street while a large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby. According to witnesses, Spies began by saying the rally was not meant to incite violence. Historian Paul Avrich records Spies as saying "[t]here seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called 'law and order.' However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it."

The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Samuel Fielden, the last speaker, was finishing his speech at about 10:30 when police ordered the rally to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers' wagon. A pipe bomb was thrown at the police line and exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan. The police immediately opened fire. Some workers were armed, but accounts vary widely as to how many shot back. The incident lasted less than five minutes.
The sudden appearance of a bomb at the very end of this previously peaceful rally is mysterious, to say the least, and some have alleged that agent provocateurs were responsible. Nevertheless, four of the speakers at the rally were hanged for Degan's murder, in spite of the fact that none of them seem to have been calling for violence. But of course, that's the way the authorities like to handle situations like this...

No comments: