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The History of May Day- The International Workers’ Holiday

May 1, 2012

On May 1, 1886, Chicago unionists, reformers, socialists, anarchists, and ordinary workers combined to make the city the center of the national movement for an eight-hour day. Between April 25 and May 4, workers attended scores of meetings and paraded through the streets at least 19 times. On Saturday, May 1, 35,000 workers walked off their jobs. Tens of thousands more, both skilled and unskilled, joined them on May 3 and 4. Crowds traveled from workplace to workplace urging fellow workers to strike. Many now adopted the radical demand of eight hours’ work for ten hours’ pay. Police clashed with strikers at least a dozen times, three with shootings.

At the McCormick reaper plant, a long-simmering strike erupted in violence on May 3, and police fired at strikers, killing at least two. Anarchists called a protest meeting at the West Randolph Street Haymarket, advertising it in inflammatory leaflets, one of which called for “Revenge!”

The crowd gathered on the evening of May 4 on Des Plaines Street, just north of Randolph, was peaceful, and Mayor Carter H. Harrison, who attended, instructed police not to disturb the meeting. But when one speaker urged the dwindling crowd to “throttle” the law, 176 officers under Inspector John Bonfield marched to the meeting and ordered it to disperse.

Then someone hurled a bomb at the police, killing one officer instantly. Police drew guns, firing wildly. Sixty officers were injured, and eight died; an undetermined number of the crowd were killed or wounded.

The Haymarket bomb seemed to confirm the worst fears of business leaders and others anxious about the growing labor movement and radical influence in it. Mayor Harrison quickly banned meetings and processions. Police made picketing impossible and suppressed the radical press. Chicago newspapers publicized unsubstantiated police theories of anarchist conspiracies, and they published attacks on the foreign-born and calls for revenge, matching the anarchists in inflammatory language. The violence demoralized strikers, and only a few well-organized strikes continued.

Police arrested hundreds of people, but never determined the identity of the bomb thrower. Amidst public clamor for revenge, however, eight anarchists, including prominent speakers and writers, were tried for murder. The partisan Judge Joseph E. Gary conducted the trial, and all 12 jurors acknowledged prejudice against the defendants. Lacking credible evidence that the defendants threw the bomb or organized the bomb throwing, prosecutors focused on their writings and speeches. The jury, instructed to adopt a conspiracy theory without legal precedent, convicted all eight. Seven were sentenced to death. The trial is now considered one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history.

Many Americans were outraged at the verdicts, but legal appeals failed. Two death sentences were commuted, but on November 11, 1887, four defendants were hanged in the Cook County jail; one committed suicide. Hundreds of thousands turned out for the funeral procession of the five dead men. In 1893, Governor John Peter Altgeld granted the three imprisoned defendants absolute pardon, citing the lack of evidence against them and the unfairness of the trial.

Inspired by the American movement for a shorter workday, socialists and unionists around the world began celebrating May 1, or “May Day,” as an international workers’ holiday. In the twentieth century, the Soviet Union and other Communist countries officially adopted it. The Haymarket tragedy is remembered throughout the world in speeches, murals, and monuments. American observance was strongest in the decade before World War I. During the Cold War, many Americans saw May Day as a Communist holiday, and President Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 as “Loyalty Day” in 1955. Interest in Haymarket revived somewhat in the 1980s.

A monument commemorating the “Haymarket martyrs” was erected in Waldheim Cemetery in 1893. In 1889 a statue honoring the dead police was erected in the Haymarket. Toppled by student radicals in 1969 and 1970, it was moved to the Chicago Police Academy.

via Haymarket and May Day.


Transvaginal Ultrasounds and the War on Women: Megan Carpentier Reports

April 30, 2012

Megan Carpentier, the executive editor of the Raw Story, took the idea of investigative journalism to a very personal place in her piece yesterday on the experience of having a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound. As those following the “War on Women” may remember, it was Virginia’s proposed bill that would require the procedure before an abortion that was largely responsible for sparking the controversy. Carpentier writes in her piece that though other states had been pursing similar efforts for some time, it took “Virginia’s effort to do the same to bring people’s undivided attention to the anti-abortion movement’s long fight to make abortion as humiliating, expensive, difficult and unobtainable as constitutionally permissible.”

Carpentier enlisted the help of a clinic in Ohio to perform the procedure, and her account of the process is as unsettling as it is enlightening.

It was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, emotionally triggering (and undoubtedly is moreso for victims of rape or incest or any woman in the midst of an already-emotional experience) and something that no government should force its citizens to undergo to make a political point.

While Carpentier does note that comparing transvaginal ultrasounds to rape is inaccurate (the former can be a medically useful practice), her experience nevertheless proves how violating, both physically and emotionally, the procedure really is.

via Transvaginal Ultrasounds and the War on Women: Megan Carpentier Reports.

Catholic Priest Gets Standing Ovation from Congregation for Opting Out of Washington’s Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign |Towleroad

April 29, 2012


Rev. Tim Clark of Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church received a standing ovation from his congregation over the weekend when he announced it would not participate in a campaign to roll back the state’s marriage equality law, the SeattlePI reports:

The parish became the sixth in Seattle to opt out of the petition drive for Referendum 74 that has been endorsed and foisted on parishes by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain (pictured).

“I am happy to report that Our Lady of the Lake parishoners have been overwhelmingly and, thus far, unanimously supportive of the decision I made NOT to gather signatures in support of this Referendum,” Clark wrote in response to an e-mail. “The standing ovation experienced during one of the Masses says less about me and much more about the health of this parish.  I only wished the archbishop could have experienced the sustained applause — the ‘sensus fidelium’ — of the people.  He needs to listen to this ‘voice.’ That is my prayer.”

If supporters collect 120,577 valid voter signatures by June 6, they will be able to block marriage equality from taking effect in Washington and put the measure on the ballot in November

Clark, whose announcement was in response to a letter from Sartain, added: “I deeply believe, and say this with boldness, that this approach is not in the mind of Christ.”

via Catholic Priest Gets Standing Ovation from Congregation for Opting Out of Washington’s Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign |Gay News|Gay Blog Towleroad.

Italian Police Probe Vatican, Mafia Links in Teen’s Disappearance 30 Years Ago- The Daily Beast

April 25, 2012


Almost 30 years ago the teenage daughter of a Vatican employee disappeared. Now Italian authorities want to know if she’s buried with a Mafia don on the grounds of a Vatican church—and how much Holy See officials know about her disappearance.

by Barbie Latza Nadeau  | April 17, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

The faint smell of incense and candle wax permeates the church of Sant’Apollinare near Rome’s famous Piazza Navona. The basilica is one of a handful of churches outside the walls of Vatican City owned by the Holy See.  It is used primarily by members of the ultra-conservative Opus Dei prelature for special masses for student priests and for celebrations of marriage and baptism of those affiliated with the sect. Behind a side door near the back of the basilica is a small courtyard that’s closed to the public. There, in an external crypt near the ornate sarcophaguses of bishops and cardinals, is the curious tomb of Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, a prominent member of the infamous Magliana organized-crime gang who was ambushed and murdered by rival gang members in 1990. 

Why a known-mobster like De Pedis is buried on the grounds of a Vatican church has been the object of much speculation since 1997, when a church maid revealed the tomb’s existence to an inquisitive journalist. The Vatican was always cagey about why the mobster was buried in one of its churches, and ultimately, the church’s silence spurred countless conspiracy theories.  Now, thanks to shocking Vatican letters leaked in the Vatileaks scandal that is rocking the Holy See, the Italian police are less interested in why he’s buried there. Instead, they want to open the tomb to see if the remains of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi are interred with those of the mobster.

Orlandi was the daughter of a prominent non-clerical Vatican employee who worked in the Vatican’s special events office that organizes papal functions and Catholic celebrations. She disappeared without a trace after leaving her Vatican apartment for music lessons on the afternoon of June 22, 1983. Her lessons were in a music school adjacent to Sant’Apollinare church, and the last witnesses to see her alive told investigators the girl crawled into a dark green BMW, though that lead could never be corroborated. Her disappearance came at a tense moment for the Vatican, and nearly everyone associated her presumed kidnapping with a wider scandal.  In 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish gunman, shot Pope John Paul II, nearly killing him. Orlandi’s parents received a series of phone calls from thugs who said they would give back their daughter if the Vatican released Ali Agca. The calls soon stopped and the Orlandi family was left wondering if their daughter was alive or dead.

Another theory surfaced a year later, when an unidentifed tipster told police Orlandi was kidnapped to keep her father quiet. Mr. Orlandi, it was said, had stumbled upon sensitive documents that tied Roberto Calvi, known as God’s Banker for his close association with both the Holy See and its primary banking facility, Banco Ambrosiano, and to an organized-crime syndicate.  Calvi had been found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982, and speculation was swiftly turning from suicide to homicide in that case. It made sense that if the elder Orlandi knew something, taking his daughter would surely seal his lips.

Demonstration to ask justice and truth about the abduction of Emanuela Orlandi

Demonstration to ask justice and truth about the abduction of Emanuela Orlandi – Some people with a picture of Emanuela Orlandi in front of St. Peter’s Square., Eidon Press / ZUMA Press / NewscomAt the time of the teenager’s disappearance, the Vatican secret service firmly believed she was kidnapped to be used as leverage either by supporters of Ali Agca or Calvi.  Last Saturday, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, Federico Lombardi, acknowledged they probably were wrong. “At the time, the authorities shared the prevailing opinion that the kidnapping might have been used by some obscure criminal organization to send messages or enact pressure in the context of the jailing and interrogation of the pope’s attacker,” he said.

But because the Vatican is a sovereign city-state, Italian police do not have jurisdiction to investigate so-called Vatican crimes. The investigation began in earnest again after a series of breaks in late 2004, but John Paul IIdied shortly after the new lead surfaced, and the thread was lost in the transition in leadership at the Holy See. In 2008, the case was opened again when the transcript of an Italian police interrogation with De Pedis’s lover tied the mobster to the girl’s disappearance.  The lover told police the young girl was kidnapped on the orders of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was then the head of the Vatican bank. 

Marcinkus, an American, died in 2006, but records show that even the Vatican was suspicious of the priest. De Pedis’s lover said the death was to avenge a debt after the Vatican reneged on mafia loans secured by De Pedis, and that the girl’s body was dumped in a cement truck near the Roman seaside town of Ostia.  De Pedis, having exacted his revenge, then forgave the loan in exchange for the prestigious burial plot inside the Vatican church, she said.

Now, the focus of the investigation has turned to the Vatican itself, and, according to revelations in a letter leaked to the Italian press last week, the Vatican is taking it very seriously. A three-page letter from Lombardi to church higher-ups indicated even he suspected a cover-up.  In the letter, shown on Italian Rai Tre state television, Lombardi wrote of his concerns and asked how to address the press. “Was the non-collaboration [in the initial Orlandi investigation] normal and justifiable affirmation of Vatican sovereignty, or if in fact circumstances were withheld that might have helped clear something up.”

Italian magistrates are now wondering the same thing, and say they feel the Vatican may still be covering up vital information about Orlandi’s mysterious disappearance. They are picking up on a series of leads that stalled in 2005, starting with a tip from an anonymous caller to an Italian detective program Chi’l’ha Visto (“Who Has Seen”). The caller said Orlandi was kidnapped on the orders of the then vicar of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, and that “the secret to the mystery lies in a tomb in Sant’ Apollinare basilica.”

A three-page letter from the Vatican’s chief spokesman to church higher-ups indicated even he suspected a cover-up.

Last month, former Rome mayor and vice premier Walter Veltroni took up the case, asking the Italian interior ministry to ascertain whether the church of Sant’Apollinare is protected from Italian law or whether investigators could exhume De Pedis’s tomb.  The Vatican quickly offered access to the tomb and suggested that perhaps moving the mobster’s remains was a way to quash speculation once and for all. But in an about-face this week, the prosecutors backed down and said they won’t be opening the tomb anytime soon—saying instead that it’s time for someone inside the Vatican to tell the truth. “There are those in the Curia who know elements of the circumstantial evidence,” Giancarlo Capaldo, assistant prosecutor in the case, said on Italian television. “There are people still alive, and still inside the Vatican, who know the truth.”

In the meantime Orlandi’s family is hoping investigators change their minds and open the tomb, even though De Pedis’s widow, Carla Di Giovanni, reportedly is the only person with keys, and now even she is under preliminary investigation in the nearly three-decade-old mystery and probably not feeling very cooperative. 

“The declaration by the prosecutors that the truth is known in the Vatican is very heavy, but it’s overshadowed by the strange decision not to open De Pedis’s grave,” Orlandi’s brother, Peter, told La Stampa newspaper over the weekend.  “Implicating the Holy See directly is a huge step forward. Now the Holy See has a moral duty to give a response after years of refusing to cooperate.” 

But as long as it’s sealed, the mobster’s grave won’t give up any ghosts, or shed any light on the mystery.

The Truth About the Economy- Robert Reich

April 18, 2012

Gay Conversion Therapy Torture Victim-The Young Turks

April 11, 2012

Obama Administration Pushes to Privatize Poultry Inspection – Working In These Times

April 10, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last Monday, members of American Federation of Government Employees union and food safety advocates rallied outside of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protest a plan that they argue would essentially privatize poultry inspection. The USDA wants to expand a pilot program that currently allows 20 chicken slaughterhouses and five turkey slaughter houses to employ their own meat inspectors instead of using independently funded federal government inspectors.

“This new inspection system for poultry slaughter plants is another example of attacks on everyday working people while billionaires and corporations are getting tax breaks. And this time, it’s putting our kids and families at risk while taking jobs away from people we count on. It’s shocking,” AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Director Manny Herrmann wrote in an e-mail petition.

The USDA, though, claims that the proposed program would help save money and improve public health. The agency argues that there is less need for inspecting the carcass of the chicken as they are going down the line in a poultry house and more need to test them at the end of the line, in terms of bacterial testing. It claims that the new inspection model could prevent 5,200 food related illness every year.

“It’s primarily a public health thing, and, by the way, it reduces spending,” deputy undersecretary of agriculture for food safety Brian Ronholm told The Washington Post. “There aren’t many opportunities an administration gets to achieve both goals.”

“It’s really fraud for the industry,” says Erin Kessler of the Food Integrity Campaign at the Government Accountability Project. “In the new program there is only [carcass] inspection at the end of the production line and they discourage stopping the production line.  Under the proposed program, the inspector can see only see the back of the bird and not the front of the bird where a lot of fecal material lies. If there is fecal matter on the chicken and it goes out to folks, it can increase the chances of e. coli outbreak.”

In affidavits obtained by the Government Accountability Project, several federal food inspectors  complained about seeing company employed food inspectors already in the pilot program being reprimanded for removing diseased chicken carcasses from the line. Inspectors also worry about the program allowing poultry producers to dramatically speed up the number of chickens that must be inspected.

“The way they are going to operate this program, there will be two people trying to look through 182 chickens—that’s 91 chickens a minute per person. It’s not humanly possible,” says Painter, who is based in Crossville, Ala.

Painter, who is AFGE Food Inspection Council Chair, is surprised the Obama administration would push this proposal. “This pilot program started under Clinton. Unless we win the fight, federal poultry inspection is going to end under Obama. We pretty much expected it to happen under Bush. We thought okay it’s not going to happen. Personally, I did not expect this out of Obama,” says Painter.

The rule is currently proposed and there is a public comment on it open until April 26th.  A number of groups such as the AFL-CIO, AFGE, and the popular blog site Daily Kos have launched campaigns to stop Obama’s USDA from implementing the program.

“If there is not a public outcry to stop this, 5,200 people will be affected. The agency says 5,200 people won’t get sick because of this process. I am of the other opinion. The number 5,200 is probably correct, but it will probably be 5200 people get sick,” says Painter.

via Obama Administration Pushes to Privatize Poultry Inspection – Working In These Times.