Historic Chicago Protests

Poster calling for the fateful gathering at Haymarket Square in May 1886

Poster calling for the fateful gathering at Haymarket Square in May 1886

Women wearing pink "pussy" hats will fill the streets of Chicago today. 

The hats are a jab at President Donald Trump who was recorded bragging about grabbing women by their genitals without consent.

The protest is the left's shot across the bow to President Trump; it symbolizes resistance to his misogyny, racism, and a range of his proposed policies. 

Chicago is a perfect location for this protest. It is the site of one of Trump's great towers, a phallic paean to himself. Trump also used Chicago to help himself get elected. The city's terrible violence, he argued, illustrated the need for a return to "law and order."

Chicago is also a place where the great schisms in American life, politics, and capitalism are always on display. It is hyper-segregated; terribly violent; and starkly divided into rich and poor.

It is no wonder, then, that Chicago has long been a site of political protest and upheaval. Here are some images from a few of Chicago's iconic protests. Through the years the issues are shockingly similar: race; policing; war; and class conflict.

Haymarket Square, 1886

In May of 1886, the entire city was gripped by strikes calling for an 8 hour workday. After the police killed strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works, a group of workingmen assembled in Haymarket Square to vent their anger. During that meeting, an unknown culprit hurled a bomb at policemen standing by. Seven men were convicted of a conspiracy to throw the bomb.

Harper's Weekly Illustration of Haymarket Square violence

Harper's Weekly Illustration of Haymarket Square violence

Illustration of the hanging of four of the anarchists convicted of killing police at Haymarket

Illustration of the hanging of four of the anarchists convicted of killing police at Haymarket

Pullman, 1894

In 1894, workers who lived in the company town of Pullman struck when the company cut their wages but refused to lower their rents. All the while, the Pullman Palace Car Company kept paying a dividend to investors. The American Railway Union leader Eugene Debs, in turn, called on ARU members to strike in sympathy with the Pullman employees. Railroad traffic ground to a halt until federal troops broke the strike.

National guardsmen and strikers eye one another outside the arcade in the town of Pullman, 1894

National guardsmen and strikers eye one another outside the arcade in the town of Pullman, 1894

Drawing of federal troops breaking up Pullman Strike, 1894

Drawing of federal troops breaking up Pullman Strike, 1894

Memorial Day, 1937

Hundreds of people sympathizing with striking steel workers marched on the Republic Steel Mill on Memorial Day in 1937. A thin line of police blocked their path. Feeling threatened, they fired on the crow, killing ten and injuring thirty.

Memorial Day Massacre, 1937

Memorial Day Massacre, 1937

Martin Luther King Jr. March, 1966

In the summer of 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. went to Chicago to lead a campaign calling for better housing and integration of northern neighborhoods. He encountered fierce opposition, as shown in this short video.

Grant Park, 1968

In 1968, the Democratic Party held its national convention at the Congress Hotel beside Grant Park. Protesters flocked to Grant Park to express anger over Lyndon Johnson's support for the Vietnam War. Chicago police attacked the protesters.

Vietnam War protest in Grant Park 1968

Vietnam War protest in Grant Park 1968

Police attack war protester, 1968

Police attack war protester, 1968

Iraq War Protests, 2003-2004

When President Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, Chicago became the site of one of many large scale protests in cities across the globe.

Iraq War protest, 2003

Iraq War protest, 2003

Iraq War protest 2004

Iraq War protest 2004