In 1892 the National Guard was called to Homestead, Pennsylvania.
8,500 National Guard forces came to town because 300 Pinkertons had already failed.
Workers in the steel mills were trying to unionize, you see. Henry Frick, chairman of Carnegie Steel Co., couldn’t let that happen. So, he had hired the Pinkertons – a move which left seven workers and three Pinkertons dead. Then he called in the National Guard.
The National Guard forcibly removed the strikers. The town did not unionize.
Two years later, railroad workers in Pullman, Chicago, led by Gene Debs, initiated the first national strike. Rail service across the country came to a standstill.
With support from then-President Grover Cleveland, thousands of U.S. Marshals and 12,000 United States Army troops were called in to break the strike.
As many as 30 strikers died. U.S. citizens killed on U.S. soil by U.S. troops.
The strike was successfully crushed.
These are the stories I grew up with.
So, when I see stories of SWAT teams on the streets of Missouri, called in to “deal with” protestors…I am saddened, but not surprised.
This is how we – the people in power – have always dealt with those who would dare call us out on injustice, who would dare challenge the norm, who would dare question our might and right. We control the armed services and we put the rabble-rousers down.
In Ferguson, Missouri an unarmed black man was shot and killed for walking down the street.
It’s happened in countless other cities, too.
To call that an outrage, to recognize that this happens again and again and again, to fight against such tremendous injustice, is to question the power dynamics in this country, to question the status quo. And those in power can’t tolerate that.
A working-class Irish girl, I’ve been raised to identify with the striking workers from the turn of the last century. Taught to admire the men and women who gave their lives fighting for justice, who were continually crushed by the machine of power, wealth, and industry.
Perhaps now I am the elite. I am those in power. I may not have the power alone to stop what is happening, but I have the power to walk down the street unharmed by police. I have the power to speak up.
And above all, I have a responsibility to stand with those who demand justice. Who demand change. Who fight every day to ensure that tomorrow is better. Who do everything in their power to stop the cycle of violence and who insist that a government of the people should serve all the people.
So I stand with the people of Ferguson, as I stand with the people of far too many other cities.
But I’m taking suggestions on what more I can do. Speaking out is not enough.