Haymarket Square Riot

May 1 or May Day, is an international holiday which commemorates an event that happened in the United States. Demonstrations and celebrations are held all over the world. The United States does not recognize this as a holiday, yet this day changed the course of history and working conditions around the world. The three main labor organizations present in the United States at the time sought an eight-hour work day and called for several strikes to achieve this goal. Of the three labor organizations, the Knight of Labor was the largest and most conservative; they opposed the strike on May 1.

Rallies were held nationwide on this scheduled day. In some cities, blacks and whites marched side by side, which in 1886, was quite a sight to behold. Chicago’s was by far the largest, there were an estimated 90,000 people participating. The workers brought their wives and children to participate in the peaceful parade. Just off to the side of the parade were police officers and militia members, just waiting for any sort of trouble. Following the parade, there were speeches in multiple languages to accommodate the workers. Then everybody went home with no violence occurring.

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May 3, 1886, however, was a completely different story. 65,000 workers on strike in Chicago, joined a group of lumber works at a rally confronting strike-breaking workers at the end of the work day. Officers tried to dispurse the strikers, with guns drawn. The police opened fire as the strikers retreated, killing 6 and injuring many more.

On May 4, 1886, a rally was held at the Haymarket Square, consisting of 3000 people, including the Mayor of Chicago, who wanted to make sure that no violence occurred. The Mayor talked to the police and insisted that the rally was peaceful and that they should just return to their regular duty.

Around 10pm that night, 180 police officers with clubs aggressively approached the participants, demanding that they disperse immediately. Following this, a bomb exploded amongst the police, killing 8 and wounding 58 other police officers. The remaining cops unloaded on the crowd, wounding 200 and killing an unknown number of people. 8 labor leaders were arrested and convicted on the grounds that they had conspired with or aided an unknown assailant. Many of them were not even present on May 4, and no involvement was proven. The trial resulted in 4 being hung, one committed suicide.

The 3 surviving were later pardoned in 1893 by the Governor of Illinois. The efforts of the participants in these rallies later led to the establishment of the 8-hour day. This also demonstrates how corrupt our legal system can be; their trial had nothing to do with justice. They were not given a fair trial, from the judge to the jury, they had their minds made up before the proceeding even started, which allowed innocent people to die and others to rot in jail for years for a just cause that is viewed as normal practice today.


  1. http://h2g2. com/dna/h2g2/A627662
  2. http://www. history. com/topics/haymarket-riot

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Haymarket Square Riot. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/haymarket-square-riot/