Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre. Chicago. 1937.

memorial day massacre

The Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre. The Chicago Police Department shot and killed ten unarmed demonstrators in Chicago on May 30, 1937. The incident took place during the “Little Steel Strike.”

8 Replies to “Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre. Chicago. 1937.”

  1. You never pass on a opportunity to bash the police and perpetuate the “police are evil” narrative. Shame on you Fred! That was 80 years ago!

    1. 80 years and the ten steelworkers are still dead. I never miss the opportunity to honor those who gave their lives for justice and the rights of working people.

    2. In 1937 the police WERE evil. Bought and paid for goons protecting the interests of the factory owners, and enemies of the working class.

      “Twenty-five thousand men were on strike; their purpose was to picket peacefully, to win a decent raise in wages so that they might exist like human beings. But there had been constant, brutal provocation by the police.

      Dozens of strikers had been arrested, beaten, waylaid; strikers’ property had been smashed and destroyed. Even women had been beaten, dragged off to jail, treated obscenely. The National Labor Relations Act guaranteed them their rights; today they were going to demonstrate in support of those rights.

      Some of the strikers had made their own placards; the slogans were simple, direct, and non-violent: ‘REPUBLIC STEEL VIOLATES LABOR DISPUTES ACT.’ ‘WIN WITH THE C.I.O.’ ‘NO FASCISM IN AMERICA.’ ‘REPUBLIC STEEL SHALL SIGN A UNION CONTRACT.’

      The line of pickets crossed the meadowland, singing at first: ‘Solidarity forever, the union makes us strong…’; but then the song died as five hundred blue-coated policemen took up stations between the strikers and the plant. The strikers’ march slowed–but they came on. The police ranks closed and tightened. It brought to mind how other Americans had faced the uniformed force of so-called law and order so long ago on Lexington Green in 1775; but whereas then the redcoat leader had said, ‘Disperse, you rebel bastards!’ to armed minutemen, now it was to unarmed men and women and children that a police captain said, ‘You dirty sons of bitches, this is as far as you go!’

      About two hundred and fifty yards from the plant, the police closed in on the strikers. Billies and clubs were out already, prodding, striking, and they began to jerk guns out of holsters.

      ‘Stand fast! Stand fast!’ the line leaders cried. ‘We got our right! We got our legal rights to picket!’

      The cops said, ‘You got no rights. You Red bastards, you got no rights.’

      Grenades began to sail now; tear gas settled like an ugly cloud. Children suddenly cried with panic, and the whole picket line gave back, men stumbling, cursing, gasping for breath. Here and there, a cop tore out his pistol and began to fire; it was pop, pop, pop at first, like toy favors at some horrible party, and then, as the strikers broke under the gunfire and began to run, the contagion of killing ran like fire through the police.

      They began to shoot in volleys. They ran after fleeing men and women, pressed revolvers to their backs, shot them down and then continued to shoot as the victims lay on their faces, retching blood. When a woman tripped and fell, four cops gathered above her, smashing in her flesh and bones and face.

      And so it went, on and on, until ten were dead or dying and over a hundred wounded. And the field a bloodstained field of battle. World War veterans there said that never in France had they seen anything as brutal as this.”

  2. The reality is that for days, the workers entering Republic Steel were attacked violently by the strikers. Yes the police were heavy handed in that period but the fact of the matter is the protesters were not all peaceful. Actually, violence was employed by many protest groups then regularly. The protest organizers imported trouble makers who took cover behind many honest protesters. That was a tactic. And yes there was a communist element too, but that was a straw man for the police. That is a fact. Regardless, The Paramount reporter who filmed the incident stated that the melee was started by the mob and he believed the initial shot came from the crowd. The police had no right to fire into a crowd aimlessly and in fact exercised deadly force when in retrospect not justified by today’s standards. But in the heat of the moment when the shots rang out, the reaction was that numerous police shot in the direction of the initial attack. Some have even said that an ill advised warning shot sparked the entire massacre. A misinterpreted warning shot fired in response to a volley of rocks tossed by the protesters. The protest organizers lied, the police lied, and innocent people caught in the middle were killed by the police while non striking workers were battered by protesters and their children verbally attacked on many prior occasions. Sometimes facts get lost when telling a story. Why did the peaceful protesters preemptively have a triage center, faux ambulances, rocks, clubs, and other non peaceful preparations. So there are 3 stories, the police version, the peaceful protest version, and the undeniable truth. The killings were not justified, labor movements had violent factions that attacked innocent non striking workers and the police as well, and the Memorial Day Massacre was more than some antiquated police brutality story. The blame lies on the shoulders of many more than those wearing blue uniforms.

      1. Truth and justice go hand in hand. Should truth be a side? I am simply saying the facts here con volute the almost amateurish approach that 500 police officers decided to fire into a peaceful picnic where people gathered to espouse brotherly love and the merits of a fraternal labor organization. There was a police force that was 75% Irish who was not used to backing down. There was several prior clashes in the 48 hours prior to the “Massacre”. There was empathy expressed for the property owners (Republic Steel) by the Mayor and the President of the United States. Forgotten are the workers, who possibly to their own detriment, did not want union membership or the CIO negotiating for them. They wanted a better wage and life too, but had a more reserved stance. They continued to work through the conflict. Their own union supportive brothers beat them to a pulp and even vandalized their personal residences for not striking. The pro-union members were violent too. Sad at so many levels. So lets not let the vandals off the hook. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So again, I am on the side of truth, I support union membership, but not at the cost of hypocrisy or lies.

      2. You use your truth to evade the truth. What side would you have been on that Memorial Day?

  3. The side of the worker. Plain and simple. I support the working man, not the CIO. But let the truth be told. Violence condemned should in fact be condemned. I do not parse the negligence exhibited by the police, who maimed many innocent, with the violence employed by the strikers regularly to intimidate other workers. The choice to join the union then was not such a clear cut decision as it may appear to have been today. The fact is that Republic steel was willing to abide by the Wagner act but that did not mandate recognizing the union as the representative negotiating body. The CIO did not like that. The politics within the CIO was afoot. That was the powder keg issue.

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