Fight for Rights: The Chicago 1919 Riots and the Struggle for Black Justice

Friday, August 8

The next day, problems continued at the stockyards. The meatpackers insisted that only 4,500 workers had refused to come to work on Friday and that no more than a third of the workers had walked out by the end of the day. In contrast, the Stockyards Labor Council claimed that twenty thousand workers were out by noon, that forty thousand had walked off the job by day’s end, and that half of the workers who left were Black.

The Chicago Tribune declared the situation at the stockyards a crisis. It was one complicated by a very public disagreements about why the police and guards were in the Yards. Garrity continued to insist the police were there at the request of the companies and could not be removed until the packers requested it. The meat packers assured everyone that the guards and officers were in the Yards at the request of the military and the police and that since they “were under the jurisdiction of the police and the militia” they were powerless to remove the armed guards from the area.

As the Yards seethed, the City Council returned its attention once again to policing the city's Black citizens. The council's police committee met with the chief of police in Detroit. He explained that he had prevented a race riot by ordering his men to seize all guns, blackjacks, rifles and other weapons from dealers in the city. Asked how he managed to do so legally, he said: “I happened to be out in the country when I received word that the Negroes were buying blackjacks and shotguns. At that minute I ordered the police to collect all of the blackjacks, shotguns, and other weapons from all of the dealers. They obeyed orders. I did not ask for any legal view on the subject.”

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