Detective Surveillance of Anarchists by Robert A. Pinkerton — Hell mend him, his father, brothers and all the rest of his brood that went into the family business

May 4, 1886 by Flavio Costantini


On Monday May 3, 1886, during a peaceful demonstration of striking workers outside the McCormick Reaper works in Chicago, police, private security guards and agents provocateurs employed by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency — then run by Robert and William Pinkerton, sons of the company’s founder, Gorbals-born low-life, Alan Pinkerton — fired into the crowd, killing two (or possibly six) and wounding a number of other demonstrators. A rally in support of the eight-hour day and in protest at the previous day’s killings was held the following evening, May 4, in Haymarket square was peaceful until 10.30 pms when, during the short speech given by the last speaker, British socialist Samuel Fielden, a  large number of policemen marched up to the wagon being used as a platform and ordered the speaker to stop and the remaining crowd to disperse. According to historian Paul Avrich the police then opened fire on the fleeing demonstrators, reloaded and then fired again, killing four and wounding as many as 70 people. A pipe bomb was then rolled in front of the advancing police which exploded, killing one policeman and wounding six others. The bomb thrower was never identified, although evidence was produced by August Spies, one of the subsequent accused and executed, linking the bomb to Pinkerton agents. Fortunately for the investigating officers bomb-making equipment and bombs were discovered ten days later in the apartment of German-born anarchist carpenter Louis Lingg, who hadn’t been present during the Haymarket Rally on the day in question. As a result of the 1886 Haymarket affair, the First of May — May Day — was chosen by the Second International as the date for International Workers’ Day. The following article by Robert Pinkerton, one of those complicit in the events of 3 and 4 May 1886, appeared in November 1901 following the September 6 assassination of US President William McKinley by Polish anarchist Leon Czolgosz. It provides an informed insight into the opportunist mentality and modus operandi of this ‘noble profession’ as is claimed on the grandiose obelisk tombstone of the detective agency’s founder — and disgrace to Glasgow:


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