A plaque to mark the deadly clash that changed the course of the American labor movement was unveiled in Minneapolis Saturday.
It commemorates July 20, 1934 – "Bloody Friday" – when police, acting on orders to take "drastic measures," shot striking truckers who had stopped traffic in protest of the city's anti-union policies. Sixty-seven strikers were shot, two – Henry Ness and John Belor – were killed, Teamsters Local 120 says.
“These strikes were explosive,” David Riehle, a Remember 1934 member, told the Star Tribune. “The powers that be were shaken by what happened. They said at the time that they were afraid of not just one strike in one city, but of facing an organized working class that may be carrying out a revolution.”
In the months leading up to "Bloody Friday", a large group of drivers began organizing, but were having trouble being recognized as a union by many companies in Minneapolis, so on May 16, 1934 they went on strike, bringing trucking inside the city to a standstill, Teamsters says.
The worst of the violence came on "Bloody Friday" when a large group of unarmed workers were shot in the back by police. A public commission set up after the strike testified that "Police took direct aim at the pickets and fired to kill. Physical safety of the police was at no time endangered. No weapons were in possession of the pickets," Teamsters notes.
The following month, the truckers reached a deal with their employers and were represented by the Teamsters union, according to the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.
"Bloody Friday" is seen as the catalyst that made Minneapolis a union town and helped "prod" the U.S. Congress into passing the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the labor federation notes.
Before Saturday, there was nothing physical in the city to represent the historic "Bloody Friday" clash, which prompted a group called "Remember 1934" to raise money for the plaque to memorialize the event, which took place near the Sherwin-Williams Paint Company building at North 7th Avenue and North 3rd Street in Minneapolis' Warehouse District.
On Saturday, the group held a ceremony and unveiled the plaque. Families of 13 strikers waved picket signs with pictures of their loved ones, the Star Tribune says.
St. Cloud State University professor Keith Christensen designed the memorial, WCCO notes.