The Harbor


Five more vessels sailed that day. And in the evening Eleanore said:

"The women who came to our station to-day kept asking, 'Why can't they close up the saloons? They're just the places for trouble to start.'"

"We'll try," I said, and that same night Marsh sent word through a friend to the mayor asking him to close all barrooms on the waterfront during the strike. The mayor sent back a refusal. He said he had no power.

Late that night I went down the line and found each barroom packed with men who were talking of those ships that had sailed. And they talked of "scabs." Speakers I had not heard before were now shouting and pounding the bar with their fists. The papers the next morning ran lurid accounts of these saloons and the open threats of violence there. They censured the mayor for his weakness and called for the militia. Why wait for mobs and bloodshed?

To that challenge I heard the reply of the crowd, on the Farm that afternoon, in their applause of the fiery speech of a swarthy little Spaniard. Francesco Vasca was his name.

"They are sending hired murderers who will come here to shoot us down! But when they come," he shouted, "I want you to remember this! A jail cell is no smaller than our holes in the bottoms of their ships, the food is no worse than the scouse we shall eat if we give in and go back to our jobs! And so we shall not be driven back! When the militia come against us, armed with guns and bayonets, then let us go to meet them armed——"[Pg 340]

He stopped short, and from one end to the other of that motionless mass of men there fell a death-like silence. Then he grimly ended his speech:

"Armed with patience, courage and a deep belief in our cause."

In the sudden storm of cheers and "booh's" I leaned over to Joe at my side:

"Why did you let that man speak?"

The frown tightened on Joe's face.

"Because he's one of us," he said.

Seven more ships had sailed by that night.

In front of the docksheds, outside the double line of police, the throng had grown denser day by day, and each time the "scabs" came out there had been a burst of imprecations, a fierce pressing forward. The police had repeatedly used their clubs. Now late in the afternoon a red hospital ambulance came clanging down the waterfront. It was greeted by triumphant shouts. "Some black bastard hurt at last!" There was a quick gathering of police and a lane was formed reaching into the dock. Through this lane drove the ambulance, and as presently it emerged it was greeted by tumultuous cheers.

The papers the next morning said that a raging, howling mob had tried to reach the injured man. Cries of "Sabotage!" had been heard. Two men, they said, had been injured and one killed on the docks the day before. Was this Sabotage? Had the strikers fixed the winches with the purpose of killing strike-breakers? Why not? Their leaders had openly preached it. Not only the Spaniard but Marsh himself was quoted as favoring violence, and from that special Sabotage Issue of Joe Kramer's paper long extracts were reprinted. Were not these three leaders responsible for the death of that innocent black man? And should leaders such as these be allowed to go on preaching murder? Put them in jail! Quell this insurrection while still there was time! So spoke the press.[Pg 341]

The rumor quickly spread about that Marsh and the Spaniard and Joe Kramer were to be arrested that day. All three remained at strike headquarters, and a dozen burly strikers kept the throng from pouring in. "Go on home," I could hear them shouting. But far from going, the throng increased until it filled the whole street outside. Suddenly we heard their cries rise into a raging din.

"Well, boys," said Marsh, "I guess they're here." He gave a few more sharp directions to his aides and then went out into the hall. A dozen Central Office police in plain clothes were just coming in at the door.

"All right," said Marsh, "we're ready. But unless you men were sent here with the idea of starting trouble, suppose you leave here now without us. Each one of us will meet you at any place and time you say."

"We can't take your orders, Mr. Marsh."

"You mean you were sent here for trouble?"

"I mean I have warrants for the arrest of yourself, Joseph Kramer and Francesco Vasca on a charge of incitement to murder."

And in less than a minute I saw Marsh, the Spaniard and Joe Kramer each handcuffed to two men, one on either side. As they left the hall I came close behind with a score of eager reporters.

The crowd, to my excited eyes, was like a crouching tiger now, glaring out of countless eyes. Through the solid mass of men that packed the street from wall to wall, the police had forced a narrow lane from the patrol wagon to the door. On either side of this lane I saw a line of faces, eyes. Some looked anxious, frightened, and were trying to press back, but at the sight of their leaders now with a roar the multitude swept in. In a moment the lane was gone, and some fifty police had formed in a circle around the prisoners. Quickly their clubs rose and fell, and men dropped all around them. But furious hundreds kept rushing in from every side, women and children caught in the tide were swept helplessly for[Pg 342]ward, came under the clubs and went down with the rest, and still the mass poured over them. Now at last the circle of bluecoats was broken, policemen alone and in small clusters were rushed and whirled this way and that. Outnumbered twenty to one, they began to go down in the scrimmage.

Then I heard a quick shout:

"Use your guns!"

After that, two pistol shots. Then more in a sharp, steady crackle. The mass began breaking, out on the edges I could see men starting to run. But down the street came a troop of mounted police on the gallop, and straight through the multitude they rode. I saw the three prisoners seized and surrounded and thrown into the wagon. I saw it go rapidly away. The police were now making wholesale arrests. That deep strident roar of the crowd had died down and broken into panting voices, everywhere were struggling forms.

Just before me the throng opened and I saw a woman at my feet. Her face was bleeding from a club. As I stooped to lift her, I felt a big hand grip my arm and then a heavy, crushing weight press down upon my head. I felt myself sink down and down into an empty darkness.

When I came to, I was being half pushed and half thrown by police up into one of their wagons. I remember a blurred glimpse of more fighting forms around me. Then a gong clanged and our wagon was off. And in a few moments we had emerged out of all this turbulence into the quiet commonplace streets of a city of every-day business life.

In the wagon a voice began singing. I looked up and saw our Italian musician, the leader of those gay excursions on The Internationale. Now he was singing the song of that name. And as all came in on the chorus, I caught a glimpse of his face. One cheek was bleeding profusely and with one hand he was keeping the blood[Pg 343] from trickling down. With the other hand he was beating time. And his black eyes were blazing.

Soon after, we came to Jefferson Market and stopped at the entrance of the jail. As we were hustled out of the wagon, and in the stronger light our cuts and swelling bruises came suddenly in view, two young girls among us began to laugh hysterically. In a moment we were inside the jail and shoved into a striker group that had come in wagons ahead of ours. A grim old sergeant at the desk was taking down names and addresses and sending the prisoners to their cells.

I found my cell a cool relief after all that fever of cries. With surprise I noticed it was clean. I had thought all cells were filthy holes. Still in a daze, I sat down on my cot and felt the big bruise on my head.

"Where am I? What has happened? What has all this to do with me? What is it going to mean in my life?"

I heard a nasal voice from somewhere say:

"I know this pen. They're putting the girls with the prostitutes."

I heard clanging gongs outside and soon the banging of steel doors as more prisoners were put into cells. And little by little, through it all, I made out a low, eager murmur.

"Say," inquired a drunken old voice. "Who are all you damn fools? What is this party, anyhow?"

"It is a revolution!" a sharp little voice replied. And at that, from all sides other voices broke out. Then from his cell our musical friend again started up the singing, his strained tenor voice rising high over all. The song rose in volume, grew more intense.

"Heigh! Quit that noise!" a policeman shouted.

"Aw, let 'em alone," said another. "They'll soon work it off."

But we seemed to be only working it up. Up and up, song followed song, and then short impassioned speeches[Pg 344] came out of cells, and there was applause. A voice asked each one of us to name his nationality, and we found we were Americans, Irish, Scotch and Germans, Italians and Norwegians, and three of us were Lascars and one of us was a Coolie. Then there were cheers for the working class all over the world, and after that a call for more singing. And now, as one of the songs died away, we heard from the woman's part of the jail the young girls singing in reply.

And slowly as I listened to those songs that rose and swelled and beat against those walls of steel, I felt once more the presence of that great spirit of the crowd.

"That spirit will go on," I thought. "No jail can stop the thing it feels!"

And at last with a deep, warm certainty I felt myself where I belonged.[Pg 345]

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