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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Haymarket news, parenthetically

D& I will have to go take a look at this park, and get a few photos for the archive.

Chicago Tribune: Honored by city, still disdained by cops:

"Chicago park will be named for Lucy Parsons, who helped launch the modern labor movement but is linked to 1886's Haymarket bombing
During a lifetime of soapbox oratory for myriad radical causes, Lucy Parsons loved to bait the cops. So it's only fitting that police chose to continue the fight six decades after her death, objecting to naming a vest-pocket park on the Northwest Side in her honor.

Over the vigorous protests of the local police union, the Chicago Park District's board on Wednesday named the park after Parsons, a woman long associated with the notorious Haymarket bombing of 1886.

...Parsons was indeed known for her firebrand rhetoric. Her signature essay, "To Tramps," ends with an imperative to the downtrodden: "Learn the use of explosives!"

The property named after Parsons, currently a parking lot at 4712 W. Belmont Ave., is flanked by factories--which is nicely fitting, noted Bill Adelman, one of a number of scholars and history buffs who joined Mayor Richard Daley in support of the district's initiative.

"That means that there will be workers around," said Adelman, a professor emeritus of labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "She and her husband Albert led a parade of tens of thousands of workers along Michigan Avenue in 1886."

That demonstration was part of a campaign for reducing the workday to eight hours, from the 10 and 12 employers then demanded. It took place on May 1, which afterwards made May Day labor's holiday around the world, but ironically not in Chicago or the rest of the U.S.

According to Leslie Orear, president of the Illinois Labor History Society, the Lucy Ella Gonzales Parsons Park will, in its own small way, restore her role in history in the city where she helped launch the modern labor movement.

"She represents a strain of radical and working-class political thought that has been totally ignored and deserves to be acknowledged," said Orear.

Shortly after that original May Day, a bomb went off at a union rally at the Haymarket Square, just west of the Loop, and eight police officers were killed in the explosion and ensuing chaos. Local radical leaders were rounded up, tried and convicted of inciting the violence. Four were hanged, among them Lucy Parsons' husband, Albert Parsons.

Until her own death in 1942, Parsons devoted herself to vindicating her husband. She unceasingly preached that he and the other Haymarket defendants were martyrs for the sake of a better society to come.

"Rest, comrades rest. All the tomorrows are yours!" she wrote in one of her annual commemorations of Nov. 11, 1887, the day of the executions.

Most scholars agree that the Haymarket defendants were unjustly convicted because of their political philosophy. Albert Parsons wasn't present when the bomb went off. Three of his fellow defendants who received prison terms were pardoned in 1893 by Gov. John Peter Altgeld.

Lucy Parsons also continued to struggle for the causes for which she and her husband had fought. She helped found the Working Women's Union No. 1 and the Industrial Workers of the World--a movement to organize unskilled laborers who had been ignored by the conservative craft unions of the day.

"She was dedicated to improving the lives of women, minorities and working people," said Park District historian Julia Bachrach.

Parsons numbered among labor's enemies the police, who closely monitored her appearances before those opposed to the established order.

She was repeatedly arrested and just as frequently targeted the police with stinging invective. "I don't care how many fly cops are in this hall listening to me," she said at an annual memorial for the "Haymarket martyrs," as Albert and the others came to be known on the left. "I'll say what I think. If they don't like it, let them come and take me and send me where they sent my husband."

Lucy Parsons was born in 1853 in Texas, possibly the offspring of slaves. She claimed Mexican and Indian as well as African ancestry.

Lucy and Albert Parsons advocated anarchism, which she defined as a philosophy of freedom from what she saw as the oppressive hand of government. "Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully," she once said....



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