Irish Rebellion of 1798
Today in Labor History May 24, 1798: The Irish Rebellion of 1798 began. The uprising was organized by the United Irishmen, a Republican revolutionary group that was influenced by both the American and French Revolutions. They were fighting for independence from Britain. The United Irishmen was started primarily by Protestant Dissenters from the Anglican Church of Ireland. However, Theobald Wolfe Tone, argued for the inclusion of Catholics in the revolution. The revolutionaries were successful in County Wexford. But, the British army ultimately suppressed the uprising. As a result, 10,000-50,000 combatants died.
May 24, 1856: The Pottawatomie Massacre occurred in Kansas. On May 21 pro-slavery forces sacked Lawrence, Kansas. The town had been settled by abolitionist “Free-Staters.” The next day, slavery supporters attacked Senator Charles Sumner for speaking out against slavery in Kansas. In response, John Brown, and his supporters in the Pottawatomie Rifles, killed five pro-slavery settlers in front of their families. This led to a mini-civil war in Kansas that was a prelude to the national Civil War that would follow a few years later.
Today in Labor History May 24, 1883: After 14 years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge over New York’s East River finally opened. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world at that time. Newspapers called it “the eighth wonder of the world.” However, twenty-seven workers died in its construction.
May 24, 1917: Mass anti-draft demonstrations occurred in Montreal, Quebec. Most French Canadians opposed conscription because they felt no loyalty to Britain or France. English Canadians were more likely to support the war. In 1918, Canada passed the Military Service Act. Under the Act, 404,385 men were required to register for the draft. However, 385,510 sought exemption. In the spring of 1918, things heated up further. As French-Canadians protested against the draft, police fired on them. As a result, they killed at least five and wounded dozens.
Today in Labor History May 24, 1921: Sacco & Vanzetti went on trial. The trial was steeped in anti-Italian racism and anti-anarchist sentiment. As a result, they were found guilty. The state executed them seven years later. In 1927, supporters protested for their lives in Tokyo, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Rio, Buenos Aires, Dubai, Montevideo, Johannesburg, Aukland, Melbourne. People protested in every major city in the U.S. and Europe, too.
May 24, 1940: Iosef Grigulevich, under orders from Stalin, attempted to assassinate Leon Trotsky in Coyoacan, Mexico. However, he failed miserably, only wounding Trotsky’s young grandson in the foot. Pablo Neruda helped him escape from the Mexican authorities. In the 1950s, Grigulevich was directed to assassinate Tito, in Yugoslavia. However, he aborted that mission when Stalin died. In the 1930s, he worked in Spain as a Soviet spy, reporting on the activities of suspected Trotskyists, like George Orwell and Andres Nin, in the POUM.
Today in Labor History May 24, 1941: Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) was born.
Today in Labor History May 24, 1949: Police shot and nearly killed UAW labor leader Victor Reuther at his Detroit home. His brother Walter had previously survived an attempted abduction in April 1938, a shotgun attack in 1948 and a bombing in 1949. He ultimately died in a plane crash in 1970, though curiously only one newspaper speculated that it might have been an assassination.
May 24, 1961: Authorities in Jackson, Mississippi, arrested Freedom Riders because they were “disturbing the peace.”
Today in Labor History May 24, 1968: Protesters in Paris set the Stock Exchange on fire. As street demonstrations grew and occupations continued, the state prepared to use brutal force to crush the revolt. Army generals readied 20,000 troops to take hold of Paris. Police took over communications centers like TV stations and Post Offices. Communist Party officials helped manipulate strikers into returning to work.
May 24, 1980: Hundreds were arrested in the occupation of Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant construction site. The Clamshell Alliance was the main organizer of the protest. Founding members of the Clamshell Alliance included 2020 presidential candidate and left-green activist, Howie Hawkins, as well as journalist and anti-nukes activist Harvey Wasserman. Keith McHenry, cofounder of Food Not Bombs, also cut his activist teeth with the Clamshell Alliance.
Today in Labor History May 24, 1982: Over 400,000 people participated in massive anti-nuclear demonstration in Tokyo. In March, over 200,000 demonstrated for nuclear disarmament in Hiroshima.
May 24, 1990: Earth First! and IWW members Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were bombed in Oakland, California. Police immediately arrested the victims, destroyed evidence, and went on a witch hunt for local activists like Earth First! and Seeds of Peace. FBI bomb investigators were on the scene of the bombing almost instantly, as if they knew about it in advance. Later it was discovered that the FBI had held a police bomb training in California’s redwood country, near where Bari and Cherney lived, and that the bomb in their car resembled those used in the training. According to Bari, Four of the FBI agents who were on the scene of her bombing had been students at this training.
Today in Labor History May 24, 1995: 2,300 members of the United Rubber Workers agreed to return to work without a contract. They had been on strike for 10 months at five Bridgestone-Firestone plants, fighting for 12-hour shifts and wage increases tied to productivity gains.