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