The Haymarket Riot, which took place in Chicago on May 4, 1886, is one of the most popular events in the United States’ history. The cause of the riot has been a point of intense debate and discussion over the years, but the event itself is seen as a precursor to the larger, more organized labor movement of the early twentieth century in the United States.
The immediate cause of the Haymarket Riot was a nonviolent demonstration of workers’ rights that took place in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. The International Working People’s Association (IWPA), an anarchist group that had been campaigning for workers’ rights since 1883, arranged the demonstration. The demonstration was in response to the police killings of two workers during a strike at McCormick Reaper Works. The demonstrations were initially peaceful, but at the end of the rally, a bomb was launched, killing one police officer and injuring more than 70 others. Cops opened fire on the crowd following the explosion, killing four demonstrators and injuring many more.
The Haymarket Riot has been traced to a number of causes. The first is the growing labor revolt in the late nineteenth century. The labor movement was a reaction to the increasingly oppressive working conditions in factories and other industrial workplaces. Workers were often denied basic rights, such as the right to organize, and they were often exposed to long hours, low wages, and unsafe working conditions. Many employees were in dire circumstances and had no other choice but to organize and fight for their rights.
The second factor that led to the Haymarket Riot was growing anxiety among authorities of the anarchist movement. Since 1883, the IWPA had been campaigning for workers’ interests, and it had become more vocal in the years leading up to the Haymarket Riot. President James Garfield’s assassination by an anarchist in 1881, as well as the subsequent passage of the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1886, which sought to exclude anarchists from the United States, raised this anxiety.
The atmosphere of unrest in Chicago at the time was the third factor that contributed to the Haymarket Riot. This was due in large part to the police force’s graft, which was widely believed to be in syncident with the city’s upper crust. Protesters and labor activists were known to use excessive force in dealing with demonstrators and labor activists, and some segments of the labour movement believed this to be a provocation.
The Haymarket Riot was a result of a fusion of several factors, including labor unrest, the apprehension of anarchists, and the deterioration of the police force. The festival was seen as a precursor to the early 20th century’s larger labor movement, and its legacy continues to this day.