History of the Labor Movement in the United States - Vol. 4

By Philip S. Foner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Vicfory at Lawrence and After

Few strikes in American labor history had to combat as many and as varied forces designed to defeat the struggle of the workers as were arrayed against the Lawrence strikers. As Haywood put it in a speech at a mass meeting of the strikers on February 9: "We are opposed by the courts, police, detectives that now spy among you, pulpit, press, soldiers, and legislature -- all are arrayed against us."1


FORCES AGAINST THE STRIKERS

The brutality and provocative tactics of the police were noted by numerous investigators. The New York Times reported that they "served to infuriate rather than subdue the strikers."2 U.S. Senator Poindexter, after a personal investigation, issued a statement to the United Press in which he accused the police of helping the mill owners to fight the strikers. He was horrified at the brutality of the authorities. "It's like a chapter in the story of Russia's brutal treatment of the Jews. I never expected to hear of such things in the United States. The State of Massachusetts, in Lawrence, is Russia." The Toledo Union Leader drew the same analogy. Reprinting a press dispatch' quoting Lawrence policemen "who swung heavy clubs against the defenseless ranks of textile workers" as crying out: "Hit the women on the hips and arms. We don't want to break any woman's head," it commented: "With what mad zeal would we protest against such an order by Russian Cossacks living so far away that 'distance lends an enchantment to the view.'" The Lawrence police "could give points on fiendish cruelty to Russian Cossacks."3

The truth is that it was considered a crime by the police to be a striker in Lawrence. Anyone walking along the street was liable to be arrested on a charge of intimidation or disturbing the peace. To call a man a "scab" was a misdemeanor against the public peace. For such and lesser "crimes," strikers were arrested, given no opportunity to consult counsel,

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