MEMORIAL DAY MASSACRE – 1937: TEN DEMONSTRATORS KILLED BY POLICE BULLETS. Organized ‘military like’ violence against peoples’ protests is as American as apple pie. Almost always the perpetrators of the violence make no bones about it and are never found guilty. Bayonets, machine guns, flame throwers, tanks, water canons, teargas, suppression of free speech and rights to assembly, mass arrests without charges, and deportations have all been part of the arsenal of repression.
When several smaller steelmakers, including Republic Steel, refused to follow the lead of U.S. Steel (Big Steel) and sign a union contract, a strike was called by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). As a show of support, a picnic was held on Memorial Day, on May 30, 1937. Then, striking Republic Steel workers and sympathizers attempted to establish a picket line at the front of a mill on Chicago’s Southeast Side. The protesting marchers, including families from the surrounding community, halted when met by a line of Chicago police officers in a field north of the mill gate. While demonstrators in front were arguing for their right to proceed, police fired into the crowd and pursued the people as they fled. Mollie West, a Typographical Union Local 16 member and a youthful demonstrator at the time, still recalls the command addressed to her: "Get off the field, or I’ll put a bullet in your back." Ten protesters died and approximately 90 were injured while retreating from police clubs, tear gas, and bullets. The episode stands as one of the most violent in the history of U.S. labor organization.
Uncategorized A Labor Day Message from Bill Fletcher, Chair of the Retail Justice Alliance Aug 21, 2014 As we approach Labor Day, the growing divide between the rich and poor continues to dominate the national conversation and, in some parts of the country, has led to social unrest. While many poli…
April 20, 1914 – LUDLOW MASSACRE – - 20 dead: Organized ‘military like’ violence against peoples’ protests is as American as apple pie. Almost always the perpetrators of the violence make no bones about it and are never found guilty. Bayonets, machine guns, flame throwers, tanks, water canons, teargas, suppression of free speech and rights to assembly, mass arrests without charges, and deportations have all been part of the arsenal of repression.
The Ludlow, Colorado strike began when miners got fed up with their meager wages, deadly working conditions, and their oppressive living conditions. The major coal companies owned whole towns, including the homes of the miners. No-win situation because miners were only paid for the tonnage of coal mined, making them risk their lives to get bigger amounts of coal to feed their families. Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards attacked tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914. John D. Rockefeller was the principle owner of the mines. (Image: Unloading the machine gun; ruins of the Ludlow camp in Colorado, 1914. Credit: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)
Upon striking, miners and their families were evicted from their company-owned houses and lived in a tent colony on public property. The massacre occurred in a carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, company guards, and thugs hired as private detectives and strike breakers. The day after Easter the militia descended on the tent colony and set up their machine guns. The colony returned fire. By the end of the day, many in the colony were dead. A fair number escaped when a train passed by and momentarily stopped to shield the miners and their families. Unfortunately, however, there were women and children trapped when the camp was set on fire.
The Baldwin Felts Detective Agency, hired to suppress the Colorado miners, used an armored car mounted with a machine gun—the Death Special. The day of the massacre miners were celebrating Greek Easter. At 10:00 AM April 14, the militia ringed the camp, firing into the tents. Not one of the perpetrators of the slaughter were ever punished, but scores of miners and their leaders were arrested and black-balled from the coal industry. They shot and burned to death 20 people, including a dozen women and small children. Later investigations revealed that kerosene had intentionally been poured on the tents to set them ablaze. The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that randomly were shot through the tent colony by company thugs. The women and children were found huddled together at the bottoms of their burned out tents.