‘Cops Fire on Unarmed Pickets’ from The Militant. Vol. 7 No. 29. July 21, 1934.

A report on Bloody Friday (July 20, 1934) during the Minneapolis Teamsters’ strike resulting in over 60 injuries and the deaths of fellow workers John Belor and Henry Ness. 100,000 people would attend their funerals.

‘Cops Fire on Unarmed Pickets’ from The Militant. Vol. 7 No. 29. July 21, 1934.

33 Shot In Minneapolis As Strikers Stop All Commercial Vehicles


Thirty-three pickets were shot with sawed-off shotguns by police, who, at the same moment, in two different places, began firing volleys of slugs into groups of pickets.

Bloody Friday.

The authorities apparently bad planned the double provocation as the opportunity for bringing in the National Guard, for within a few minutes of the shootings the first truckload of machine gunners arrived on the blood-splotched sidewalks, established military lines, and cleared the district.

Within twenty minutes of the shootings the rest of the battalion of guardsmen, held in readiness at the armory here Since the strike started on Monday, were widening the area enclosed by military lines. Thirty-live hundred additional National Guardsmen were ordered here at once by Adjutant General E. A. Walsh.

Farmer-Labor Governor Olson is, according to the law, supreme commander of the National Guard. The Adjutant General’s authority to order the additional guardsmen must have been previously arranged for with the Governor, which means that the whole manoeuvre was prearranged.

One attack took place on Third Street and Sixth Avenue North. In front of the Slocum Bergen Grocery Company, from which convoys of police cars were preparing to move a merchandise truck. The police were under orders from Chief of Police Michael Johannes to shoot their way through picket lines and were armed with the murderous sawed-off shot-gun, favorite deadly weapon of American gangsters. As the scab truck began to move, swaddled around by police cars, a truckload of pickets drew alongside.

Harry Ness an family.

Without warning, according to witnesses and newspapermen, the police fired volley after volley into the tightly-packed strikers. While men fell like flies, the rest courageously advanced on the scab truck.

Their defiant advance probably saved the lives of many, for in hand-to-hand fighting with the bloodthirsty police, they prevented them from continuing their gunfire. Despite the number wounded and the truck drivers fighting with their bare hands, they sent two of their attackers to the hospital. Another, a sergeant, was shot by his berserk subordinates when he accidentally got into the line of fire.

The other police attack occurred at the same moment, a block away. Witnesses in between heard the shooting break out on both sides simultaneously, as if at a signal. The signal arranged for may have been the moment of arrival of the picket truck.

Bloody Friday.

A block away, where earlier in the afternoon police lines had been established in preparation for the attempt to move trucks, crowds of strikers and sympathizers were lined up, when suddenly the police fired into the crowd. Four of the wounded fell here.

The militant answer of the labor movement of Minneapolis came immediately. Union-driven taxicabs, ice, beer and gasoline trucks which had so far continued to operate by arrangement with the union, immediately went on strike. The district surrounding strike headquarters was immediately cleared of police by the strikers, including traffic cops. Strike head-quarters took over the district and strikers took over the directing of traffic.

Strike Headquarters in Command of District

The strikers picked up their wounded and took them to the hospital previously set up in strike headquarters, to prevent maltreatment and arrest of wounded strikers.

William Brown, President of the Truck Drivers Union, gave the answer of the workers to the bosses and their hireling government: “The trucks will not move. There may be an occasional truck get through under escort, but there will be no general movement of trucks. You can depend on that. We will put 5,000 men into the field.”

Vincent Dunne, strike leader, declared that Minneapolis labor will stand solidly in back of the truck drivers and smash the strikebreaking attacks of the authorities. The; strike was endorsed last week by the Central Labor Union and its constituent unions. Tonight there is scheduled to take place a gigantic mass meeting of all trade union to back up the strikers. The farmers are backing the strikers one hundred percent.

Farmers Rally to 574

Agreement was arrived at between the Farm Holiday Association and the union to permit the delivery of produce directly to consumers and small stores in return for which the farmers will picket country roads against commercial trucks and to supply food to the strikers. This solidarity shown by the farmers Is said by strike leaders here to be one of the most inspiring and decisive steps in the battle to win the demands of the drivers.

The unemployed workers of Minneapolis are also solidly behind the strike. The Minneapolis Central Council of Workers (unemployed) has voted full support of the strike and is supplying pickets. This vast combination of organized labor, unemployed and farmers can and will drive back this latest onslaught on the elementary rights of workers.

Funeral of Herry Ness.

The Militant was a weekly newspaper begun by supporters of the International Left Opposition recently expelled from the Communist Party in 1928 and published in New York City. Led by James P Cannon, Max Schacthman, Martin Abern, and others, the new organization called itself the Communist League of America (Opposition) and saw itself as an outside faction of both the Communist Party and the Comintern. After 1933, the group dropped ‘Opposition’ and advocated a new party and International. When the CLA fused with AJ Muste’s American Workers Party in late 1934, the paper became the New Militant as the organ of the newly formed Workers Party of the United States.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/themilitant/1934/jul-21-1934.pdf

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