Today is the anniversary of a horrific incident (which seems too mild of a word to use), where innocent men lost their lives at the hands of vigilantes who disagreed idealogically. The Everett Massacre reminds us Americans how we have a capacity to turn thoughtless, ugly, really, when it comes to our divisions. Today, we still have not learned lessons from our past.
The University of Washington has a wonderful archive on the Everett Massacre, also known as “Bloody Sunday,” here: http://depts.washington.edu/iww/everett_intro.shtml. On this site are photos, stories, faces of the people involved.
The following is a repost from my “Chasing Rabbits” page at www.franklittleandtheiww.net.
On November 5, 1916, about 250 Wobblies boarded the steamers Verona and Calista bound for Everett, Washington, to protest harassment and censorship at the hands of law enforcement, vigilantes, and armed strikebreakers supporting the local lumber and milling companies. Their employers and AFL-affiliated labor councils wanted “open shop.” Forty IWWs had already been arrested, stripped, and made to run a gauntlet of several hundred vigilantes, who beat them with guns, clubs, and whips, near Seattle a week earlier.
When the Verona glided into Everett’s dock first, armed vigilantes and law enforcement met the boat. Other men, some drunk, waited in tugboats that began surrounding the steamer in a semicircle. On a hill above, a crowd formed to watch the anticipated violence, and some could hear the IWWs singing “Hold the Fort.” While a member of the steamer’s crew tied the boat to the dock, a sheriff and his deputies approached and began a heated exchange with some of the men on board. Then one shot rang out.
Gun shots opened immediately—a crossfire—with the Veronatrapped between vigilantes in the tugboats and law enforcement and other vigilantes on the docks. Deputies, hidden in a warehouse along the docks, also opened fire. Men panicked in the boat, almost capsizing it, and some dove into the water while many others, who could not swim, fell overboard. Quick to act, a Wobbly cut the ties to the dock, ordered the engines reversed, and the Verona made her escape backing out of the area.
Afterwards, four men lay dead on its decks, one was dying, and thirty-one were wounded. At the dock, one deputy was killed, another was dying, and twenty wounded. An unknown number fell overboard, some wounded, and their bodies never found. What was to be called Bloody Sunday was immediately known as the Everett Massacre to workingmen. No one knows who fired that first shot.
Was Frank Little there as some have written? Not likely. In Michigan during August 1916, Frank had been kidnapped, mock hanged, and beaten senseless. In fact, some of his injuries were still evident when he was hanged for real on August 1, 1917. By mid-November 1916, an ailing Frank Little was in Chicago, involved with the IWW’s general executive board, preparing for the upcoming IWW convention. No doubt, the recent Everett Massacre was certainly on the board members’ minds.