What were the immediate cause and what were the underlying causes of the Haymarket Riot ?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

May Day celebrations in honor of American workers are the result of the bravery and sacrifice of laborers in 1886 on Tuesday, May 4. A rally of laborers who desired an eight-hour day was planned for Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois. 

Things began on May 1 when laborers across the country marched for an eight-hour day; estimates range from 300,000 to half a million workers strikers.  In Chicago at Haymarket Square Pinkerton guards gave protection to the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company strikebreakers plant while the Irish union members had been locked out since early February. When the end of the day bell rang, workers charged the strikebreakers, and gunfire erupted to control the situation.  But, two McCormick workers were killed.

Anarchists were upset by this and called for a rally the next day, printing fliers claiming that police killed workers on behalf of business interests and urging workers to seek justice.  Although the rally began peacefully, a pipe bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing  policeman officer Degan. After this, police opened fire, and the incident lasted less than five minutes.

Many police officers were wounded; eight men were charged for being connected with the anarchists. Despite a lack of evidence, seven of the eight were charged, and four of the men were hanged. But, in a later appeal in 1893, Governor John Altgeld pardoned three of the men.

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