Account of the Battle Between Police and Strikes at the McCormick Works.
Twelve thousand strikers in the Blue Island avenue manufacturing district stretched themselves out on the grass near Clark Brothers' large planing mill and furniture factory at 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon. They were lumber shovers, molders, planing mill men, and box-makers. Nearly all were foreigners, and many wore bits of red ribbon on the lappels of their coats. At 2 o'clock a man, coatless and hatless, climbed upon an empty freight car standing near the multitude. He stepped to the edge of the roof and then waved his hands about his head. "Stand firm," he shouted in German. "Let every man stand shoulder to shoulder and we will win this fight. We must have our rights. Strike while the iron is hot. Drive the ‘scabs’ out of the yards and let us show McCormick that he cannot hire non-union men and keep them at work while we, the bone and sinew of Chicago, are forced to have our wives and our children crying for bread. Arm yourselves and prepare for the worst."
Deafening cheers greeted each sentence of the speaker's harangue. The thousands surged nearer the car upon which the hatless man stood and detached it from the train. As they did so a youth in a hickory shirt hurled a stone at one of the proprietors of the Hinglington planing mill who had thrust his head out of the window to learn the cause of the uproar. The multitude needed no other signal. Within three seconds 1,000 men burst into the yard of the company and swarmed around the building from which the head had protruded. A storm of stones and brick beat upon the roof, and the windows were demolished as if by an earthquake. This work of destruction having appeased the anger of the mob, the men returned to the car, from the top of which a member of the Lumber-Shovers' Union was trying to quell the disturbance. "We will win, boys," he shouted. "Stick together; that's all we want to do. One lumber firm has already consented to give its men ten hours' pay for eight hours' work, and before the week is out all of the bosses will give in. I will now introduce to you Mr. Spies, of the Arheiter Zeitung." The young, fiery editor of the organ of the Anarchists stepped to the edge of the car. Beads of perspiration trickled down his cheeks. The fingers of his right hand grasped a black slouch hat, and in his other hand he held a bundle of Socialistic literature. While in the midst of a virulent attack upon capitalists, the tolling of the bell in the distant tower of the McCormick Reaper Works broke upon the ears of the 12,000 men.
"Now for the scabs," shouted a man with a red handkerchief knotted about his neck.
"Let's drive 'em out of the building and kill 'em," roared a broad breasted molder as he took after the heels of the man with a red handkerchief.
The excitement was electric. It spread from man to man in the twinkling of a star, there were cheers from a thousand throats, and then the noise grew into a mighty roar.
"Off to McCormicks!" was the cry. Blue Island avenue was choked with hurrying men and boys. They rushed down the car-tracks in a resistless body, and swept over the vacant lots in solid phalanxes. The roar grew mightier in volume as the mob poured down upon the huge, gray somber building at Western avenue. . . .
"Kill the scabs," roared one of the leaders, as he hurled a bowlder through one of the windows, where a second before a pale face had been pressed.
"Tear down the building," shouted another, who was waving a huge club in his hands. Almost instantly the great factory was subjected to an ominous siege. Stones crashed through the windows and clubs carried away the sash. Nothing escaped the fury of the mob. When the windows of the first three stories had been demolished the storm swept through the gaping orifices.
"Now let us drive out the scabs," roared the man with the red handkerchief knotted about his neck.
The mob pressed forward with a yell. Just as it was about to burst into the yard the Hinman street patrol wagon dashed down the dusty road. Twelve officers were in the body of the wagon. . . . The dozen officers stepped toward the 20,000 angry people before them. Each man carried a revolver in his right hand. The mob remained firm.
"Disperse or we'll fire," shouted Sergeant Enright. His reply was a shower of stones that whistled unpleasantly about the little band of blue-coats. The officers wavered for a moment before the onslaught, and then leveled their revolvers at the crowd. The barrels of the weapons glistened in the sunlight, there was a flash, and then an explosion followed that startled the horses in the car barns, two blocks away. The first shot of the strike had been fired, but nobody was hurt. The bullets purposely flew over the heads of the strikers and buried themselves in the prairie to the northward.
Another volley was fired by the officers with no more effect. The strikers contested every inch of ground. . . . [The rioters] fired at the officers from ambush, with weapons of all patterns and calibre. Bullets whistled right and left, and off to the southward a half-dozen men on a shed kept up a plunging fire. At times it was a square, stand up fight. Policemen and strikers shot at each other at a distance of twenty paces, yet so defective was the marksmanship of the latter that not an officer was hit.
. . . Reinforced by the Twelfth street contingent the handful of men from Hinman street raced up the grade to the road. Here they formed in line, twelve abreast, under a desultory fire from windows, roofs, and sheds, and charged east on the street car tracks. The rioters at first made a sullen resistance. They faced the approaching officers and the slender, glittering line of revolver barrels held on a level with their heads as if it was all play. But when the hurrying officers curved the index finger of their right hands, and a streak of fire as long as a telegraph pole flashed through the air there was an exciting hegira and a general go-as-you-please race for cover. . . .
. . . Although the rioters had been driven from the McCormick works they still lined Blue Island avenue, from Robey street to Western avenue. . . . Revolvers cracked continually, and occasionally the loud report of a blunderbuss or ancient shotgun loaded with slugs split the air. Four strikers dropped during this charge, two of them being shot through the groin. They were picked up by comrades and borne away before the police could overtake them. . . .
After the streets in the vicinity of the McCormick works had been cleared, the objectionable scabs employed there were marched out into Blue Island avenue and told that they would be escorted to their homes by the police. They were pale and their knees knocked together as they walked. One hundred officers were placed on either side of the "scabs," and in this position they marched toward the city. . . . As the procession marched east on Blue Island avenue the walkers were jeered in a most exasperating manner. Women, with bare arms and red handkerchiefs tied about their heads, screamed imprecations from windows; children hid behind chimneys and pelted pebbles and eggs at the objects of their venom, and from time to time bricks by men secreted in the attics of the many small buildings on the line of march. . . .
During the riot at least five strikers were shot, two fatally. Four officers were slightly injured and Assistant Superintendent C. J. Bemley, of the McCormick works, was hit with a stone in the face and badly hurt.