I created my silkscreen print in 1980 as a celebration of International Workers Day, or May Day, which is observed annually around the world on May 1st. The origin of May Day has its roots in the American labor movement.
On May 1, 1886, workers in the U.S. mounted a general strike across the country in order to win the eight hour day. On May 4, 1886, at a striking workers demonstration at Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois, an unidentified assailant tossed a bomb at police who were attempting to clear the square; in response police fired directly into the crowd. When the smoke cleared, four workers were dead and some seventy were wounded, while seven police officers had been killed. Many in the worker’s movement suspected that agent provocateurs were behind the bombing.
State authorities reacted by attempting to break the back of the labor movement, raiding its meeting halls and arresting dozens of its leaders. Eventually eight anarchist activists were charged with the bombing and a kangaroo court found all of them guilty as charged. On November 11, 1887, four of the defendants were taken to the gallows and put to death. One of them, August Spies, yelled out just prior to his hanging, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!”