Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Haymarket Square

Haymarket Square is a widened portion of Randolph Street, between Des Plaines and Halsted, which once served as a common market area for the surrounding working class neighborhood. On May 4, 1886, it became synonymous with one of Chicago's most famous incidents, in which at least ten men died, four were hanged, and another committed suicide in jail -- the infamous Haymarket riot between police and anarchists.

The riot did not take place in Haymarket Square, but instead around the corner, north on Des Plaines. The incident took place following a socialist/anarchist rally which was originally intended to take place in Haymarket Square, but since the weather was so poor that evening, the turnout for the rally had been underwhelming, and the organizers thought it best to move to a smaller venue.

Despite the fact that none of the action in the Haymarket affair actually took place in Haymarket Square, the city ordered an heroic 9-ft statue of a policeman built in the middle of the Square to honor the policemen who lost their lives there.

This obviously displeased anarchists and radicals who felt the police had been the chief cause of the violence. A disgruntled streetcar driver mowed down the statue in 1927 on the anniversary of the riot. The statue was rebuilt. Weather Underground terrorists blew up the statue in 1969. The statue was rebuilt. The Weathermen blew it up again in 1970. The state was rebuilt, and given its own 24-hour police retinue to ensure its safety. After a few years, the irony in using actual policemen to protect a statue of a policemen dawned on someone, and the statue was removed to police headquarters.

Pictured here is the eastern half of Haymarket Square. The western half, closer to Halsted, was demolished in the 1960s to make room for the Kennedy Expressway. Note the diagonal parking areas on both sides of Randolph, a highly unusual feature for a Chicago street, but evincing the original "square".


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