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The monument to the anarchists was preceded by a statue honoring the police, which was dedicated on Memorial Day 1889 in the heart of the Haymarket, in the center of Randolph Street just west of Desplaines. The statue figure faces east, and can be seen amidst the traffic on Randolph Street in the photograph by J. W. Taylor, Photographers, dated 1890.

It is hard to read the meaning of the stances and expressions of the men and boys gathered around the new monument in the second photograph, but the statue itself unambiguously honors the policemen's staunch assertion of authority in the face of anarchy. The inscription on the pedestal proclaims it to be dedicated by the grateful city "to her defenders in the riot of May 4, 1886." The New York firm of A. Whittmann published the photograph in an 1889 book containing views of Chicago. The captions in the book are in both English and German.

As Albert Parsons Jr. would unveil the statue to his father, the honor at the dedication of the police monument went to the teenage son of officer Matthias Degan, who had been killed by the Haymarket bomb and for whose death the eight anarchists were found guilty. Mayor DeWitt Cregier delivered the main address.

Well before the executions, a fund was established for the erection of this monument by the Chicago Tribune, which reported the contributions to the monument fund in a box in the daily paper. With the support of the same businessmen who had helped arm the militia against civil disorder and had opposed clemency—including R. T. Crane, in front of whose factory the riot had taken place—the funds needed to complete the project were soon raised. The commission for the statue was given to Johannes Gelert, who had recently come to Chicago from Denmark. Gelert worked from a design submitted by newspaper reporter Charles Batchelder (his is one of the many names spelled differently in different sources). Gelert would also create the statues to Hans Christian Andersen and Ludwig van Beethoven in Lincoln Park, as well as a memorial to Ulysses Grant in Galena, Illinois, the former president's home town.

According to labor historian William Adelman, whose book Haymarket Revisited provides one of the richest understandings of Haymarket's cultural context, Gelert modeled the statue after officer Thomas A. Birmingham. Gelert came upon Birmingham directing traffic in downtown Chicago on September 25, 1888, just after he left the ceremonies at the Union League Club during which he was awarded the commission. Adelman relates that when they saw Gelert's work in progress, Crane and other native-born Protestant businessmen objected that it looked too Irish, but Gelert stood his ground.