Legal Proceedings Investigation On May 5

Legal Proceedings

Investigation

On May 5, the police skipped legal documents such as search warrants and went into people’s houses searching them for: bomb-making materials; the people who organized the marches and strikes; and papers and documents showing the workers in a bad light.

In one man’s house, Louis Lingg, they found several homemade dynamite bombs and bomb-making materials. They analyzed a shard of lead from one of the policeman’s wounds and determined it was very similar to the lead in the casing of the bomb in Lingg’s home. They also said the nut found at the scene was very similar to the ones found at Lingg’s house. They decided he made the bomb that was thrown.

Some documents found encouraged violence. The activist presses which printed documents that encouraged people to organize together in these events were shutdown, so they couldn’t organize themselves anymore.

They arrested 8 people: August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolf Fischer, Albert Parsons, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Louis Lingg, and Oscar Neebe. They didn’t know who threw the bomb. They just went and arrested people they thought were organizing and inciting the workers. Many of them weren’t even there when the bomb was thrown. Albert Parsons handed himself in because he thought the evidence was weak.

Trial & Verdict

The 8 people were accused of not discouraging bomb throwing. The trial began on June 21, 1886 and lasted until August 11. The jury was picked so that the jury was against the defendants from the start. The judge was openly negative towards the defendants. The newspapers wrote that the 8 people should be found guilty and called them all sorts of bad names.

Unsurprisingly, they were all found guilty. 7 were sentenced to death and 1 was sentenced to prison for 15 years hard labor. Because of nationwide pressure, the Governor of Illinois changed 2 of the death sentences to prison sentences.

The night before they were to be hung, Lingg killed himself with a dynamite starter he’d smuggled into jail. The remaining 4 were killed the next day. One of their wives was arrested just for trying to see their husband one last time.

Pardon

On June 26, 1893, the next governor of Illinois pardoned the remaining 3. He said it was a great injustice and the result of a broken judicial system.

Commemorations

On July 1889, at a worldwide labor meeting in Paris, the American delegate suggested that May 1st be set aside in remembrance of the martyrs and what they died for – better working conditions. That day became Labor Day and is celebrated around the world. However, in America, Labor day is on the first Monday of September because of the Russian Revolution the date was often connotated with communism.

Monuments were made around Chicago to remember the policeman that died and the workers that died.

Effects on the Labor Movement

Short term

The affair caused widespread confusion and fear towards immigrants and labor leaders. People thought they might have been involved with the bomb, so they were no longer trusted. Without the trust of the workers, the 8-hour workday movement was held back.

Long term

The Haymarket riot influenced many later labor leaders, activists, and artists.