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When the Illinois Labor History Society planned its Haymarket Workers Memorial Meeting in May 1970, it deliberately modeled its poster (left) on the original call to the Haymarket meeting (right). Some of the substantive changes are especially noteworthy, since they indicate the way the memory of Haymarket was being applied to the current situation.
Instead of seeking the attention of "Workingmen" alone, the 1970 poster appealed to all "People of Chicago." Rather than promising speakers who could "denounce the latest atrocious act of the police," it offered a program that would "explain the meaning of the Haymarket Events in light of the Social Struggles of Today." And, at the bottom (where the original unedited poster had advised, "Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!"), it states, "Honor the Memory of the 8-hour day Strikers." Below the announcement of the meeting is a short history of Haymarket that emphasizes its relation to the campaign for the eight-hour day and social justice rather than to the anarchist critique of the capitalist order.
There were, however, important continuities between this event and many other labor gatherings, including the list of speakers, the promise of entertainment, and a ceremony of remembrance. Recent interviews with two of the participants in this rally, Studs Terkel and Oscar William Neebe (grandson of defendant Oscar Neebe), are included in the "Personal Recollections" section of this Act.
One purpose of this occasion was the dedication of a plaque sponsored by the Illinois Labor History Society and the Illinois State Historical Society. The plaque was placed on the north side of the Catholic Charities building, situated at the southwest corner of Desplaines and Randolph Streets, with the approval of Monsignor Vincent Cook, who also participated in ceremonies honoring the police (see the "Guarding the Memory" entry in the "To Serve and Protect" section of this Act). Cook was director of Catholic Charities.
The text of the plaque, which also emphasizes the importance of Haymarket in the history of the eight-hour movement, read:
"On May 4, 1886 hundreds of workers gathered here to protest police action of the previous day against strikers engaged in a nationwide campaign for an eight-hour workday. Radicals addressed the crowd. When police attempted to disperse the rally, someone threw a bomb. The bomb and ensuing pistol shots killed seven policemen and four other persons. Although no evidence linked any radicals to the bomb, eight of them were convicted and four hanged. Three were later pardoned. The strike collapsed after the tragedy."
Shortly after the unveiling of the plaque, it was stolen, perhaps in response to the destruction of the policeman's statue the previous October. The replacement statue was dedicated the day after the plaque ceremonies, but it would be blown up five months later. Like the original bombing in the Haymarket, the precise motives behind all these acts continue to be a matter of speculation, since the identities of the people who committed them have never been definitively revealed.
All that remains of the inscription on the wall of the Catholic Charities building are the holes in which the bolts that supported the plaque were inserted, a reminder of the challenges in finding a consensus on what is the proper way to remember and commemorate Haymarket.