May 2, 1914
WOMEN TRAMPLED IN UNION SQUARE RIOT
I.W.W. Clash With Police Ends 10,000 Socialists’ May Day Fete in Panic
IRON FENCE BROKEN DOWN
Terrified Crowd Flees From Danger in Wild Stampede.
There was a dreadful minute toward the close of the great Socialist May day demonstration in Union Square, last evening, when Second Deputy Police Commissioner Rubin's face went white a print paper.
In that minute he saw thirty feet of strong Iron fence at the east side of the square bend like wire against the pressure of thousands of frightened men, women and children, give way completely and sag, posts uprooted, to the grass. He saw young girls, who had been crushed against the fence, fall with it and lie face downward, screaming, while a wave of human beings rolled over them and burled them from sight.
Rubin himself walled back the wave with fifty policemen that he swiftly gathered from all about, but he and the men who stood with him were afraid to look when the bluecoats hurled back the crowd and lifted the mass from the girls who had been crushed and trampled under it. As things ordinarily happen those women would have been killed or terribly injured. But by Rubin’s quick thinking and by the best of good luck perhaps they were more frightened than hurt. Half a minute's delay In blocking the panicky flight would certainly have cost several lives.
Climax of Nervous Afternoon.
It was a near thing and It came as the climax of a nervous afternoon, through every hour of which the police commanders and other men whose business took them to the centre of the close packed crowd of 12,000 were afraid that the demonstration would not end without bomb throwing, savage fighting and killing.
This apprehension was not caused by the attitude, of the Socialist organization that marched to Union Squire to celebrate the international labor day and who had a right to the park. Their attitude was at all times peaceable good natured and friendly toward the police. The apprehension was caused by the hectoring, the insults and the threats from the I. W, W., the anarchists and the roughs who cursed under no particular flag. These human adulterants of a decent crowd were responsible for six hours for a series of fights, panics and clubbings, and finally brought about the curious wave of fear which came near ending the lives of the women who were swept under when the iron fence gave way.
This occurred at 5:30 P.M. A group of Italian socialists, who were unable to get near the pavilion from which the regular speakers were talking, organized a meeting of their own at the north of the square and directly across from the Everett Building in Seventeenth street. The Italians spoke from an automobile in which Miss Caroline Dexter and other well known socialists were sitting.
Insult Socialist Speakers
Three loud voiced, sneering men, identified by the socialists as I. W. W. anarchists of the Berkman-O’Carroll following, shouldered to a place near the automobile and insulted the socialist speakers vilely. The hot tempered Italians were for leaping at them, but Miss Dexter and her friends restrained the angry men.
Twenty or more policemen in the crowd drew together, formed a wedge and drove for the trouble makers. These tried to run, but the solidity of the crowd hampered them, so they turned and clawed at the policemen. The policemen were young and they were separated from commanders, so they forgot the danger of using clubs in the thick of a vast crowd. They let fly at the disturbers and when I. W. W. sympathizers some distance off threatened them they charged the sympathizers, using clubs pretty severely.
In English and Yiddish men and women screamed that the police and the I. W W. were fighting. A panic wave started at the north side of the square and rolled east and south so that in no time at all at least 5,000 persons were trying to get away from the little rumpus at the north.
The crowd saw safety within the park and started that way. It moved slowly at first and then gathered momentum. The fence halted it momentarily and then the fence bent and gave way.
Chief Inspector Schmittberger and acting Inspector Morris, alive to the dangers of clubbing, were struggling through the crowd trying to get at their young policemen. Schmittberger isn't as young as he used to be, but he owns the kind of a voice that goes with an old time cop, and above the rumble and clash you could hear it, the German accent rising to the top in his excitement:
"No clups! No clups! Put down dose clups!"
He checked the panic at its source, but neither he nor Morris knew for a minute or two what was going on at the fence. Only one or two policemen had been stationed there and they were unable to stop the multitude. As good luck would have it, Commissioner Rubin was on the spot.
All save one or two of the persons injured were hurt in this I.W.W. precipitated panic.
Paul Bologne, who lives at 355 East 184th street was rapped on the head by something that was hard enough to break through hair and scalp.
Richard Daly, 70 years of age, of 396 Third avenue, was bruised also.
Two Girls Hurt as Fence Falls.
Two girls were slightly hurt when they fell over the fence. They were Jennie Lovler of 217 Henry street, who was bruised and who became hysterical, and a girl whose fence was cut and whose hands and arms were bruised and cut. She was taken away by friends before the police or the reporters could get her name.
For twenty-five years May day has meant a lively afternoon in Union Square. Yesterday the biggest crowd that ever gathered there to talk for socialism and organized labor crowded the north and east sides of the square.
The socialist organizations had a permit to use the square for the afternoon. They were not to assemble there until 1 P. M. Their parades were forming at noon uptown and downtown. But the I. W, W. and the anarchists gathered in Mulberry Bend at 11 A. M troubled the sunshine with ugly speeches and finally marched, spilling curses and threats, for the sole purpose of making their way to Union Square and dominating the socialist celebration. Alexander Berkman, his bald head reddened from exposure to an unfriendly sun; Wild Joe O'Carroll, Becky Edelsohn and Marie Ganz organized the march and stirred their followers with speeches against the Rockefellers.
The column readied the north side of Union Square at about 11:35 A. M. George Graff, chairman of the New York Evangelistic Committee, was presiding over a meeting. Women were singing hymns. The I.W.W. surrounded the group and shouted insults and curses until Mr. Graff withdrew with his shocked company.
Policemen warned the leaders to withdraw from the park. At first Berkman, O'Carroll and the women agitators paid no attention to the warnings. They placed a packing box at the Seventeenth street corner and prepared for speech-making Policeman Beattie asked to see their permit Berkman and others refused to show a permit. They had none.
Beattie then attempted to pull them from the box and a heavy cane flickered from the crowd and crashed down on the policeman's head. His cap saved him probably from a fractured skull. He fell to the ground. Three policemen picked him up and stood off the crowd until squads of bluecoats came running from every quarter. Beattie was taken to Bellevue Hospital suffering from a scalp wound. The man that felled him was not caught, but the cane was found on the ground. It was a heavy, silver headed stick bearing the sliver monogram W.
News of this outbreak got to Police Headquarters in a hurry and before 1 P. M. Schmittberger was in the square frowning over 500 men in uniform and watching the crowd grow hundreds to the minute.
The first thing he did was to take away from the I. W. W. their black banners, announcing that he would give them back after the meeting.
Upon one of these banners "Hunger" in white letters stood out on a field of black. Upon another, also black, was a skull and crossbones in white, with the inscription. “Rockefeller, the Multi-murder.” Upon another black flag was "Rockefeller is a good Christian. He shoots our women and children."
One of the I.W.W.’s climbed to the top of an iron post in front of the pavilion and waved the skull and cross-bones banner until police lieutenant hauled him down.
Even after their banners were confiscated the I.W.W and anarchists held their ground, shouting threats and curses. Marie Ganz renewed her threats of personal violence. Berkman, the strategist of the crowd, silenced her, and after a talk with the chief Inspector made up his mind that the I.W.W. army had its choice of going to jail or hospital or giving up the field to the Socialists.
When the I. W. W. column broke up and scattered most of the men in the ranks did not go away. They wormed into the mass of Socialists later and spent the afternoon trying to stir up anger against the police.
There were perhaps 10.000 Socialist paraders, and at least half of the paraders were young women.