Sunday, May 01, 2005

May First, Chicago, and Haymarket

The celebration of May First as an international labor day is rooted in Chicago. A series of strikes for the eight hour day in Chicago in 1886 resulted in the shooting of two protestors by police. The next day a further demonstration resulted in the Haymarket riot when an unknown protestors threw a bomb at the police killing one. Six more police and four protestors died in the ensuing gunfire.

Eight labor leaders and anarchists (which meant something a little different in 1886) were arrested for the bombing. Four were hung for it 1887 and their bodies buried in West Suburban German Waldheim (renamed Forest Home during World War I).

There is a large monument at Forest Home to the Haymarket martyrs. I was at the rededication of the monument in May 1971. The Chicago Plumbers Union donated most of the money to fix up the badly neglected.

The City of Chicago erected a statue to the Police near the Haymarket sited. During the 1970's in kept getting blown up by radicals. It was indestructible however the city moved it to the lobby of the new central Police station and plaque now marks the spot where it once stood.

Note the statue in German Waldheim gets vandalized now by the left and has pieces missing which is a curious statement on the left I think.

Many early American Communist leaders are buried near the memorial or had their ashes scattered there. There is a large memorial overEmma Goldman's grave there too.

The early 70s were years of detente between the United States and the Soviet Union with many exchanges of people moving between the two countries. I remember the American Communist Party's Young Workers Liberation League hosting a delegation of Young Communists from the Soviet Union and giving them a tour of Forest Home in a rented West Town's Bus.

The African-American bus driver got bent out of shape listening to the anti-American chit chat from the American comrades and hijacked the whole busload taking them to his bungalow in Maywood for coffee and a visit with his family to show while not a Rockefeller he was thankful to be a worker living in the United States. My Dad thought this a hoot and often checked me with the story if I went to far with radical-red-mode yacking.

Grinnell College graduate Carolyn Ashbaugh wrote a biography of one of the wives of the Haymarket martyers: Lucy Parsons published in 1976 by Charles Kerr. I remember the buzz in the History Department when a student got published.

Forest Home an interesting cemetery. I remember visiting on Sundays with my grandparents to tend graves of the Gronneger's buried in the Dutch corner and seeing the Gypsies picnic over in their corner. Follow the link and you'll see most of the old West Side ended up there.

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