|The Chicago anarchists formed numerous subgroups to organize their activities. At their meetings, members and guests would debate the pressing issues of the day, which almost always dealt with economic matters.
The American Group gathered on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons in Greif's Hall on Lake Street (see the "Points of Contact" entry in this section). When the weather permitted, they would hold their Sunday meetings as open-air rallies in an area called the Lake Front, near where Van Buren Street terminates at Michigan Avenue. Here the faithful, the curious, and accidental passersby could listen to speakers explore the failings of capitalism and otherwise spread the anarchist word.
The illustration here (Lucy Parsons's book about her husband is discussed in Act V) shows a back-of-the-crowd view of Samuel Fielden addressing the masses, with Albert Parsons standing to Fielden's left. Reports of attendance at these rallies varied depending on the source and the circumstances. The anarchists exaggerated the numbers to show the extent of their following. In his pardon of the surviving defendants (discussed in Act V), however, Governor John Peter Altgeld observed that "while Chicago had nearly a million inhabitants, the meetings held on the lake front on Sundays during the summer, by these agitators, rarely had fifty people present, while the meetings held indoors, during the winter, were still smaller." The police and the press alternately (sometimes simultaneously) deflated and inflated the attendance to argue that the anarchists had no real following or that they were a dangerous enemy within that had to be actively suppressed.