haymarket riots


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

“Sabo-tabby” is associated with the Industrial Workers of the World but originally it was  a code or symbol for direct action at the point of production, specifically sabotage. 

When saying sabotage though they did not mean destruction of machinery or equipment. They meant by taking direct action at the point of production. By workers banding together to assert their power in the workplace.

May 1st was chosen as International Workers’ Day in the late 19th century to commemorate the Haymarket riot in Chicago in 1886 and to recognize what the working people of the world have had to deal with to be treated fair by their bosses.

Nostalgia Filter

For those who think of the “good old days” in America, you should remember EVERY generation sees those “good old days” as different periods and in a different light.

As part of those “good old days” you might want to look into…

Anti-Chinese immigration laws
Mixed race marriage laws
Homosexuality as a mental illness/felony
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Henry Clay Frick
Robber Barons
Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall
Sundown towns
The Pullman Strike
The Ludlow Massacre
The Memorial Day Massacre
The Homestead Strike
The Haymarket Riot
No unemployment pay
No pensions
No social security
No welfare
No food stamps
No health insurance
No overtime
The Panic of 1873
The Panic of 1893
Native American Boarding Schools
The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1919-20
Yellow Fever in New Orleans
Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”
The photographs of Jacob Riis
In 1900 18%of all American workers were under the age of 16
Children as young as 3 working in food production
Boys as young as 8 working 10 hour shifts underground in coal mines
Girls as young as 6 working 12 hour shifts in textile mills
No food safety standards
No water safety standards
Women and people of color denied the right to vote
Poorhouses and work farms
No workplace safety
The Dustbowl
The Great Depression
Internment Camps
No vaccinations
No antibiotics
Anti-Catholic/Papist bias
The Tuskegee Experiment
Jim Crow laws
Eugenics movement
The Bonus Army
Johnstown Flood
Iroquois Theater Fire
Coconut Grove Fire

And that’s just a bit, and that’s just American. There’s tragedy,corruption, Misery and all the trappings everywhere.
The “good old days ” look better when you’re not going through them. Bad goes with good. You can’t go back All you can do is try to fix NOW


Last month, Comedy Central’s wildly popular series, Drunk History covered 3 aspects of Chicago history: Abraham Lincoln, Al Capone (a syphilitic moron!) and the Haymarket Riots.

For those unfamiliar with DH, various comedians get drunk and then attempt to recount specific historical events. Actors then reenact the events in the voice of the drunk storyteller. Hilarity ensues.

Check out Chicago native, Ike Barinholtz, portray August Spies in this funny DH short about the infamous clash between laborers and police.