Project 365 - 2008.5.1

Phillip Chee

Project 366 2008 May 1 122/366

Happy International Workers' Day. This was the day set in 1886 by the labour unions as the deadline for the implementation of the eight-hour work day. A general strike was planned for that day across North America, centred in Chicago.

On May 3 violence occurred when scab workers tried to cross a picket line near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. plant. Four striking workers were killed. A rally to denounce the killings was organised on May 4 by local anarchists who allege that police incited the violence. The rally was held at Haymarket Square and by all accounts it was peaceful until at the end of the rally during the dispersal someone tossed a bomb at the police. All hell broke loose and in the melee. One policeman was killed directly by the bomb and at the end of it seven policemen and 4 civilians were killed with about 60 policemen injured although there is some evidence that the majority of police casualties were caused by "friendly fire".

Eight anarchist leaders were arrested and charged with the murder of the first policeman killed. By the end of the trial four of the anarchists were eventually executed.

The Haymarket affair was very controversial at the time because the prosecution admitted that none of the accused could be connected directly with actually throwing the bomb. As it is still controversial you will not see much celebration of International Workers' Day in North America although it has been the official Labour Day of the international labour movement since 1890 and is celebrated across Europe both as a labour day and a traditional pagan festival day.

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