On May 3, 1886, laborers scuffled with police at the McCormick Reaper Company in Chicago after the company had hired nonunion workers during a strike. In the course of the melee, a laborer was killed, and the strikers—among them avowed anarchists—accused the police of brutality. A protest rally was called at the city’s Haymarket Square the next day, May 4. A contingent of 180 police marched in to disperse the rally, and a bomb exploded in their ranks, wounding 66 officers, seven fatally. A riot broke out, and the police fired into the crowd, killing four persons and wounding at least 200.
Travesty followed tragedy, when eight anarchist leaders were convicted as accessories to murder-despite the fact that the actual bomber was never identified. Four of the anarchists were hanged, one committed suicide, and three were jailed. In an act of great moral heroism that destroyed his political career, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld (1847-1902) pardoned the three survivors in 1893.