May Day in the Haymarket 2019

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May 1st — May Day — is Labor’s holiday around most of the world, a notable exception being the United States, even though the holiday commemorates the Haymarket Affair (aka Haymarket massacre, aka Haymarket Square riot) here in Chicago that happened on May 4, 1886, as part of a nationwide strike demanding an 8 hour work day. As a result of the police riot, 8 activists were tried in a show trial. 7 were sentenced to death. Of the 7, 2 had their sentence commuted, 1 committed suicide (probably), and 4 were hung.

Why we celebrate the labor movement in September instead of May is another story, though you wouldn’t be far off simply assuming that it is an ideological statement. After all, May 1 is officially Law Day in the United States.

Even so, union activists and lefties have insisted on observing May 1 with rallies, demonstrations and educational programs. In Chicago, the Illinois Labor History Society served as the point organization for most years since the 1970s. Some years have been bigger than others.

While there is monument to the Haymarket martyrs in the Waldheim Cemetery in suburban Forest Park (administered by the Illinois Labor History Society), in recent years most of the Illinois Labor History Society commemorations have been taking place at what was the old Haymarket. Chicago has erected its own monument to the event. Strictly speaking, its subject is freedom of speech and assembly, so it covers “Law Day” as well.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

This year’s event was not the smallest I’ve been to but it was nowhere near the largest — try a half million people in the streets. My guess is the crowd at its largest was around 200. If you were much further than two dozen feet or so, the speakers were nearly impossible to hear. Consequently, I can’t tell you much about the program.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

This wasn’t the only May Day related event in Chicago. There was a labor march of some sort in Hyde Park. There was also a celebration of Mother Jones’ birthday. But I’m sure there were other events as well.

 

 

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