Monday, May 01, 2006

International Workers' Day

On May 1st, 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions gave the United States government an ultimatum: an eight hour work day for all American workers by May 1st, 1886. When corporate and government leaders failed to listen to the masses, labor leaders called for a general strike. The strike soon escalated into riots in Chicago and other major cities. After the Chicago police murdered two innocent strikers from the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company on their own picket line, a group of anarchists called for a pro-worker rally at Haymarket Square to be held on May 4th, 1886. August Spies, a leader of the Chicago anarchist movement, spoke to the crowd that gathered at Haymarket and encouraged them to stand up for their rights. Police soon broke up the peaceful rally, but the workers fought back in the name of free speech.

"The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today." - August Spies

The courts prosecuted 8 individuals in connection with the violence at Haymarket Square and the killing of 7 policemen, despite the fact that the government had no evidence against the eight freedom fighters. Seven of them were condemned to death. On November 11th, 1887 four of them were hung before a public audience. August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel all sang "La Marseillaise", a revolutionary anthem, as they walked to the gallows.