Carol Ann Osler
The Two Sides Of Haymarket
There are more than two sides to this incident. The Haymarket Square Affair/Riot/
Massacre took place on May 4th 1886. It was to be a nonviolent labor rally in response to
the police violence that had occur the previous day, May 3rd, at the McCormick
Harvesting Machine Company. Two McCormick workers were killed in a confrontation
between locked out workers and strikebreakers, police shooting into the crowd killed two
workers. That rally was fueled by the May 1st rally held nation wide is support of the
Eight-Hour work day. Chicago was a major industrial center and tens of
thousands of German immigrants were employed during this time. A socialist and
anarchist labor organizing was starting.
August Spies the editor of the German Language, Arbeter-Zeitung (Workers Times) was
a member of that movement .He spoke at the McCormick rally and was invited to speak
at the impromptu Haymarket Square Rally. This revolutionary movement centered
around the belief that successful operations against the police and the seizure of major
Industrial centers would result in massive public support by workers, with the goal of a
socialist economy. But in May of 1886 it was just about the Eight Hour work day. To
help organize men together to free them from their the servile existence
The rally at Haymarket Square began peacefully, with a large group of police officers on
August Spies spoke along with two other “radicals. Reminding the workers of the
McCormick incident and to continue to fight for an Eight Hour work day.
As the rally was ending the police ordered the crowd to disperse. At this very moment a
home made bomb is thrown into the approaching police killing a police officer.
At that point there began an exchange of gunfire. It was dark, it was raining and people
were shooting everywhere. In the end seventy police were injured and four civilians
killed. August Spies and seven other anarchists were charged and convicted of
conspiracy to commit murder.
A bomb was thrown, someone was killed. Anarchists were at the meeting. Many people
thought they were promoters of radical ideas and could be conspirators.
Even though not one of these men actually throw the bomb.
Judge Gary defends the conviction and sentence. …. “The law holds that whoever advises
murder is himself guilty of the murder, that is committed. (Don’t think anyone advised
murder).Judge Gary continues, there is a right to free speech, that each man has the right
to entertain and advocate, but if he propose murder as a means of enforcing his opinions
he puts his own life at stake. Judge Gary’s remarks were eloquent, he defended the right
of free speech, he flattered the people of this country and their love for their institutions.
He spoke of liberty and terror and the use of dynamite.
This was a highly publicized trial, and my opinion is that the Judge was not defending
justice but was doing a little grandstanding.
From my research I do not believe that these men were given a fair trial. That their radical
ideas condemned them. The fact that the Governor pardoned the three remaining
That we as a society now work a Eight Hour day indicate that these men stood up for their
principles. Stood up for what was right.
The Haymarket Affair was a setback for the labor movement and it’s fight for an Eight
Hour work day. It will take some time and pressure and a very slow process to establish
the Eight Hour work day. They did not give up.