Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Bomb

By Frank Harris

(The English author, 1856–1931, author of “The Man Shakespeare,” has in this novel told the inside story of the Haymarket explosion in Chicago in 1886. The following passage describes the treatment which the strikers received from the police)
A MEETING was called on a waste space in Packingtown, and over a thousand workmen came together. I went there out of curiosity. Lingg, I may say here, always went alone to these strike meetings. Ida told me once that he suffered so much at them that he could not bear to be seen, and perhaps that was the explanation of his solitary ways. Fielden, the Englishman, spoke first, and was cheered to the echo; the workmen knew him as a working-man and liked him; besides, he talked in a homely way, and was easy to understand. Spies spoke in German and was cheered also. The meeting was perfectly orderly when three hundred police tried to disperse it. The action was ill-advised, to say the best of it, and tyrannical; the strikers were hurting no one and interfering with no one. Without warning or reason the police tried to push their way through the crowd to the speakers; finding a sort of passive resistance and not being able to overcome it, they used their clubs savagely. One or two of the strikers, hot-headed, bared their knives, and at once the police, led on by that madman, Schaack, drew their revolvers and fired. It looked as if the police had been waiting for the opportunity. Three strikers were shot dead on the spot, and more than twenty were wounded, several of them dangerously, before the mob drew sullenly away from the horrible place. A leader, a word, and not one of the police would have escaped alive; but the leader was not there, and the word was not given, so the wrong was done, and went unpunished.  1
  I do not know how I reached my room that afternoon. The sight of the dead men lying stark there in the snow had excited me to madness. The picture of one man followed me like an obsession; he was wounded to death, shot through the lungs; he lifted himself up on his left hand and shook the right at the police, crying in a sort of frenzy till the spouting blood choked him—  2
  “Bestien! Bestien!” (“Beasts! Beasts!”)  3
  I can still see him wiping the blood-stained froth from his lips; I went to help him; but all he could gasp was, “Weib! Kinder! (Wife, children!)” Never shall I forget the despair in his face. I supported him gently; again and again I wiped the blood from his lips; every breath brought up a flood; his poor eyes thanked me, though he could not speak, and soon his eyes closed; flickered out, as one might say, and he lay there still enough in his own blood; “murdered,” as I said to myself when I laid the poor body back; “murdered!”  4
  (As a result of this police action, the narrator goes to the next meeting of the strikers with a bomb in his pocket.)  5
  The crowd began to drift away at the edges. I was alone and curiously watchful. I saw the mayor and the officials move off towards the business part of the town. It looked for a few minutes as if everything was going to pass over in peace; but I was not relieved. I could hear my own heart beating, and suddenly I felt something in the air; it was sentient with expectancy. I slowly turned my head. I was on the very outskirts of the crowd, and as I turned I saw that Bonfield had marched out his police, and was minded to take his own way with the meeting now that the mayor had left. I felt personal antagonism stiffen my muscles.… It grew darker and darker every moment. Suddenly there came a flash, and then a peal of thunder. At the end of the flash, as it seemed to me, I saw the white clubs falling, saw the police striking down the men running along the sidewalk. At once my mind was made up. I put my left hand on the outside of my trousers to hold the bomb tight, and my right hand into the pocket, and drew the tape. I heard a little rasp. I began to count slowly, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven;” as I got to seven the police were quite close to me, bludgeoning every one furiously. Two or three of the foremost had drawn their revolvers. The crowd were flying in all directions. Suddenly there was a shot, and then a dozen shots, all, it seemed to me, fired by the police. Rage blazed in me.  6
  I took the bomb out of my pocket, careless whether I was seen or not, and looked for the right place to throw it; then I hurled it over my shoulder high in the air, towards the middle of the police, and at the same moment I stumbled forward, just as if I had fallen, throwing myself on my hands and face, for I had seen the spark. It seemed as if I had been on my hands for an eternity, when I was crushed to the ground, and my ears split with the roar. I scrambled to my feet again, gasping. Men were thrown down in front of me, and were getting up on their hands. I heard groans and cries, and shrieks behind me. I turned around; as I turned a strong arm was thrust through mine, and I heard Lingg say—  7
  “Come, Rudolph, this way;” and he drew me to the sidewalk, and we walked past where the police had been.  8
  “Don’t look,” he whispered suddenly; “don’t look.”  9
  But before he spoke I had looked, and what I saw will be before my eyes till I die. The street was one shambles; in the very center of it a great pit yawned, and round it men lying, or pieces of men, in every direction, and close to me, near the side-walk as I passed, a leg and foot torn off, and near by two huge pieces of bleeding red meat, skewered together with a thigh-bone. My soul sickened; my senses left me; but Lingg held me up with superhuman strength, and drew me along.  10
  “Hold yourself up, Rudolph,” he whispered; “come on, man,” and the next moment we had passed it all, and I clung to him, trembling like a leaf. When we got to the end of the block I realized that I was wet through from head to foot, as if I had been plunged in cold water.  11
  “I must stop,” I gasped. “I cannot walk, Lingg.”  12
  “Nonsense,” he said; “take a drink of this,” and he thrust a flask of brandy into my hand. The brandy I poured down my throat set my heart beating again, allowed me to breathe, and I walked on with him.  13
  “How you are shaking,” he said. “Strange, you neurotic people; you do everything perfectly, splendidly, and then break down like women. Come, I am not going to leave you; but for God’s sake throw off that shaken, white look. Drink some more.”  14
  I tried to; but the flask was empty. He put it back in his pocket.  15
  “Here is the bottle,” he said. “I have brought enough; but we must get to the depot.”  16
  We saw fire engines with police on them, galloping like madmen in the direction whence we had come. The streets were crowded with people, talking, gesticulating, like actors. Every one seemed to know of the bomb already, and to be talking about it. I noticed that even here, fully a block away, the pavement was covered with pieces of glass; all the windows had been broken by the explosion.  17
  As we came in front of the depot, just before we passed into the full glare of the arc-lamps, Lingg said—  18
  “Let me look at you,” and as he let go my arm, I almost fell; my legs were like German sausages; they felt as if they had no bones in them, and would bend in any direction; in spite of every effort they would shake.  19
  “Come, Rudolph,” he said, “we’ll stop and talk; but you must come to yourself. Take another drink, and think of nothing. I will save you; you are too good to lose. Come, dear friend, don’t let them crow over us.”  20
  My heart seemed to be in my mouth, but I swallowed it down. I took another swig of brandy, and then a long drink of it. It might have been water for all I tasted; but it seemed to do me some little good. In a minute or so I had got hold of myself.  21
  “I’m all right,” I said; “what is there to do now?”  22
  “Simply to go through the depot,” he said, “as if there were nothing the matter, and take the train.”  23

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