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Rally at Haymarket Square

Rally at Haymarket Square

The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden spoke to a crowd estimated variously between 600 and 3,000 while standing in an open wagon adjacent to the square on Des Plaines Street. A large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby.

Paul Avrich, a historian specializing in the study of anarchism, quotes Spies as saying:

There 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.

Following Spies' speech, the crowd was addressed by Parsons, the Alabama-born editor of the radical English-language weekly The Alarm.[36] The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Parsons spoke for almost an hour before standing down in favor of the last speaker of the evening, the British socialist Samuel Fielden, who delivered a brief ten-minute address. Many of the crowd had already left as the weather was deteriorating.

A New York Times article, with the dateline May 4, and headlined "Rioting and Bloodshed in the Streets of Chicago ... Twelve Policemen Dead or Dying", reported that Fielden spoke for 20 minutes, alleging that his words grew "wilder and more violent as he proceeded". Another New York Times article, headlined "Anarchy's Red Hand" and dated May 6, opens with: "The villainous teachings of the Anarchists bore bloody fruit in Chicago tonight and before daylight at least a dozen stalwart men will have laid down their lives as a tribute to the doctrine of Herr Johann Most." It referred to the strikers as a "mob" and used quotation marks around the term "workingmen".

Bombing and gunfire

A map of the bombing published by the Chicago Tribune on May 5, 1886

At about 10:30 pm, just as Fielden was finishing his speech, police arrived en masse, marching in formation towards the speakers' wagon, and ordered the rally to disperse. Fielden insisted that the meeting was peaceful. Police Inspector John Bonfield proclaimed:

I command you [addressing the speaker] in the name of the law to desist and you [addressing the crowd] to disperse.

A home-made bomb with a brittle metal casing filled with dynamite and ignited by a fuse was thrown into the path of the advancing police. Its fuse briefly sputtered, and then the bomb exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan with flying metal fragments and mortally wounding six other officers.

Witnesses maintained that immediately after the bomb blast there was an exchange of gunshots between police and demonstrators. Accounts vary widely as to who fired first and whether any of the crowd fired at the police. Historian Paul Avrich maintains that the police fired on the fleeing demonstrators, reloaded and then fired again, killing four and wounding as many as 70 people. What is not disputed is that in less than five minutes the square was empty except for the casualties. According to the May 4 New York Times, demonstrators began firing at the police, who then returned fire. In his report on the incident, Inspector Bonfield wrote that he "gave the order to cease firing, fearing that some of our men, in the darkness might fire into each other". An anonymous police official told the Chicago Tribune, "A very large number of the police were wounded by each other's revolvers. ... It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other."

Chicago policemen killed

1. Mathias J. Degan, 34

2. John J. Barrett, 34

3. George Miller, 28

4. Timothy Flavin, 27

5. Michael Sheehan, 29

6. Thomas Redden, 50

7. Nels Hansen, 50

8. Timothy Sullivan, 51

In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. Another policeman died two years after the incident from complications related to injuries received on that day. It remains the single most deadly incident of officers being killed in the line of duty in the history of the Chicago Police Department. About 60 policemen were wounded in the incident. They were carried, along with some other wounded people, into a nearby police station. Police captain Michael Schaack later wrote that the number of wounded workers was "largely in excess of that on the side of the police". The Chicago Herald described a scene of "wild carnage" and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilian lay in the streets. It is unclear how many civilians were wounded since many were afraid to seek medical attention, fearing arrest. They found aid where they could.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haymarket_affair#Rally_at_Haymarket_Square



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