AP photo from Eldorado News-Times, Eldorado AR
In 1913, Colorado coal miners went on strike to demand enforcement of the 8 hour workday law, to secure payment for “dead work” such as laying railroad track and timbering, for which JD Rockefeller Sr and the other coal barons paid nothing, and to gain the right to live outside company towns, buy goods from non-company stores, and choose non-company doctors. In response, the coal companies hired private detectives to terrorize strikers with sniper fire and armored truck mounted machine guns, forcing the strikers to dig pits beneath their tents for protection.
On April 20, 1913, the Colorado National Guard and a force of non-uniformed mine guards proceeded to torture and execute the strike leaders and set fire to the camp. Four women and eleven children were burned alive in a pit beneath one of the tents. The battle lasted ten days. At least 50 people were killed before President Wilson sent in Federal troops, displacing and often arresting the National Guard and the coal company militia in the process.
As low level law enforcement continues to use violence against the Occupy Wall Street protesters, I am reminded of those Colorado company towns, “feudal domain[s], with the company acting as lord and master…” according to historian Philip S. Foner. There are parallels, legitimate complaints met with brutality instead of answers, the unyielding resolve of human dignity against an escalating series of physical and psychological abuses, the private sector tyrants who continue to wage war on their own people rather than seek common ground and compromise.
Zuccotti Park was, for most of its existence, known as Liberty Plaza Park, offered to NYC by JP Morgan and Andrew Carnegie’s supermonopoly corporation, US Steel, in exchange for a relaxation of building height restrictions on US Steel’s new headquarters, One Liberty Plaza. Then in 2001, after being covered with debris from the September 11 attacks, the park was summarily closed for five years and renamed after Brookfield Properties CEO John Zuccotti, a prime example of the Bush-era policy of privatizing any valuable government holdings.
Beginning on September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street protesters began referring to it as “Liberty Park,” as a guerrilla form of the same lexical mind control that has characterized the dismantling of many of our public institutions by white collar privateers. The Ludlow Tent Colony Site in Colorado was finally named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2009. Hopefully we will not have to wait 100 years before the courageous stand taken by the Occupy Wall Street protesters at Liberty Park is recognized.