• On May 4th, 1886, a rally was held at Chicago’s Haymarket square to demand workers’ rights, among them a standard eight hour workday.
• An unknown person threw a bomb which killed one police officer and injured several more.
• In the confusion which followed, seven more officers were killed and many other police and civilians injured, most as a result of friendly fire.
• After a corrupt and hastily arranged trial of eight labor activists, four were hanged and a fifth commited suicide in prison.
• In 1893, Gov. John Peter Altgeld concluded that all eight men were innocent, and issued their pardons.
This Mayday (May 1, 2011) marks the 125th anniversary of the event. There is a monument in Forest Park, Illinois, just west of Chicago in Forest Home Cemetary, honoring those who were executed.
The site has been designated as a U.S. national monument (The only one located within a cemetary) and is currently being restored though funds raised by the Illinois Labor History Society and its President, Larry Spivack.
I also designed a plaque which will be placed at the base of sculptor Mary Brogger’s memorial honoring the Haymarket Affair. It can be found at the corner of Desplaines & Lake streets in Chicago, the actual site of the incident.
The Haymarket Incident (which some still refer to as the “Haymaket Riot”), was one of the earliest and most significant events in America’s labor history and has been a source of inspiration for workers throughout the world.
A couple weeks ago, I posted some sketches inspired by the unrest taking place in Cairo. Though the current labor protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the U.S. can’t compare to the life and death struggles going on in the mideast, it’s important to remember that there was a time when those championing worker’s rights were met with violence and, in some cases, gave their lives to fight for rights that many now take for granted. As recent events in Wisconsin and elsewhere throughout the U.S. show, that struggle continues today.