May 4th 1886: Haymarket Riot

On this day in 1886, in a violent altercation between police and protestors, the Haymarket riot occurred in Chicago. The previous day, several people were injured and one killed when police attempted to break a strike aimed at securing national eight-hour day legislation. In retaliation to such police brutality, a group of anarchist labour leaders organised a meeting in Haymarket Square. The meeting was initially peaceful, but when the police called for the crowd to disperse, one anonymous protestor threw a bomb. In the ensuing chaos the police opened fire, and violence reigned in Chicago’s streets. Ultimately, seven police officers and a few civilians died, with one hundred more people injured. The riot stoked fears of working class militancy, and resulted in a crackdown against labour leaders and immigrants. A group of anarchist leaders, known as the ‘Chicago Eight’, were arrested for alleged involvement in the bombing and subsequent violence. While many of the group were not even present at Haymarket, four anarchists were convicted on slim evidence and executed in November 1887. The surviving three of the group (one had committed suicide) were pardoned in 1893 when the case was reconsidered and thrown out on the basis of poor evidence. While proving a blow for the labour movement at the time, the Haymarket riot - and the martyrdom of the Chicago Eight - has endured as a symbol for labour leaders and activists in America and abroad. 

“The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today”
- Anarchist August Spies, one of the Chicago Eight, before his execution for alleged involvement in the Haymarket riot

“When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted– people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.”

-Industrial Workers of the World website

Facts From Episode 7

While The Knick is a work of fiction, it is based on exhaustive historical research. Below, the show’s writers share some of the true facts of the era that are depicted in this episode.

William Stewart Halsted, who visits The Knick in a flashback, was one of the great surgeons of the era, as well as a cocaine addict. (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

Dr. Osler was one of the founding fathers of Johns Hopkins Medical School, famous for his speech “Aequanimitas." (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

The "Thackery Point” where the appendix is located is actually “The McBurney Point,” named for a doctor at Bellevue. 

The stabbing is a true story. When an undercover cop accused his girlfriend of prostitution, Arthur Harris took exception. 

Cops didn’t just let the riot continue, they actively participated in it. 

Horse thievery was so common that there were “chop shops” where stolen horses were dyed quickly before being returned to the streets. 

Before anesthetic and ether, speed was the most important factor in performing amputations. (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

It really did rain that night, which finally quelled the riots. (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

Louis Lingg (1864-1887) was a German anarchist who was convicted and sentenced to hang as a member of a criminal conspiracy behind the Haymarket Square bombing. 

Louis Lingg’s statement to the court in Chicago:

“ The rest of the accused have told you that they do not believe in force. I may tell you that they have no business in this dock with me. They are innocent, everyone of them; I do not pretend to be. I believe in force just as you do. That is my justification. Force is the supreme arbiter in human affairs. You have clubbed unarmed strikers, shot them down in your streets, shot down their women and their children. So long as you do that, we who are Anarchists will use explosives against you.

Don’t comfort yourselves with the idea that we have lived and died in vain. The Haymarket bomb has stopped the bludgenings and shootings of your police for at least a generation. And that bomb is only the first, not the last…

I despise you! I despise your society and its methods! Your courts and your laws, your force-propped authority… Hang me for it!!

Love: an elegant table setting under dreamy chandeliers

No wonder it looks so divine, Interior Designer and hotel owner Kit Kemp’s name was on one of the place cards. Sigh.

The Haymarket Hotel, London, England

Never be deceived that that rich will allow you to vote their wealth away.

Lucy Parsons, the Haymarket Square widow who internationalized the struggle for the eight-hour day and whose work led to the May Day rallies held around the world. Happy May Day!

Check this out for more on the Haymarket Martyrs, the origins of May Day, and Lucy Parsons: Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary

The Marketplace on New Year’s Eve on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
My family and close family friends went to First Night Boston for NYE. We had a great time walking around the city and enjoying the lights, ice sculptures, joyful crowds and the not too cold weather! I’m surprised I haven’t gone First Night ever before… it was all good fun!

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop, at HWBC, May 13, 7pm

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop
Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm / FREE

Celebrate the release of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, the first poetry anthology by and for the hip-hop generation. Join editors Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall and a live mixtape of readings by poets featured in the anthology:

  • José Olivarez
  • Angel Nafis
  • Sarah Blake
  • Aziza Barnes
  • Mahogany L. Browne
  • Paolo Javier

RSVP via Facebook

“A cool & diversified version of a mixtape, The BreakBeat Poets is a thorough and complete summation of Golden Era writers who continue to build the scene of literary and performance poetry.”

—Chance The Rapper

The Breakbeat Poets presents the struggle-born whispers, joyous shouts, and hopeful flows of a beautiful multitude four decades in the making. Here are the voices of a movement that just won’t stop. For the urgent midnight roar of the people’s poetry and the glimpses of freshly conjured dawns awaiting their own breaks—this book is nothing short of essential.”

—Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America

From Haymarket Books Facebook Page:

On this day in 1980, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” with its chorus of kids chanting “We don’t need no education,” is banned by the South African government. Striking black teachers & black children, upset about separate and unequal education, adopt the song as their anthem. The government said the song was “prejudicial to the safety of the state.”

For more on the role art played in the fight against apartheid in South Africa check out, Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader.
& here’s the Pink Floyd song.

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Shortly before the “Days of Rage” demonstrations of October 1969 in Chicago, the Weather Underground planted a bomb that blew up a statue built to commemorate the deaths of police officers during the 1886 Haymarket riot. The blast broke windows of surrounding buildings and debris was scattered across the Kennedy Expressway, and of course, no one was injured. The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4th 1970, the day of the Kent State massacre, only to be destroyed by the Weathermen again in October 1970, a year after the original blast. Mayor Daley posted a 24-hour guard around the third statue, which was again destroyed, and has not been replaced since.