At Unemployment Rally, Marchers Recreate 1915 Hunger Protest (PHOTOS)
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"WOMEN HELP SLUG POLICE; BULLETS FLY," screamed the Chicago Daily Tribune headline on January 18, 1915. "Shots were fired, clothes torn, eyes blackened, and heads cracked while clubs, blackjacks and revolver butts were used with bruising effect on heads, arms and knuckles."
The event the paper was reporting was a march of 1,500 people -- men, women and children -- demanding relief from hunger and high levels of unemployment that were plaguing the city.
As Paul Durica, a graduate student in English at the University of Chicago, was looking through some primary source material for his dissertation, he came across the headline and was struck by it. Durica did some more research, and kept getting more and more intrigued. "It turned out Lucy Parsons was involved, the widow of an anarchist killed in the Haymarket riot," he told Huffington Post Chicago. "It was the first time (popular union anthem) 'Solidarity Forever' was sung."
Durica had more than an academic interest in the event. He also runs Pocket Guide to Hell, a series of walking tours and re-enactments with a focus on labor history and social justice in Chicago. Given the obvious connection to contemporary events (the current 10.5 percent unemployment rate in the city is higher than it was in 1915), Durica decided to re-enact the march, following the original parade route, bringing on mock police officers, creating costumes and props, and giving certain protesters specific parts to play.
The 2011 version of the Parade of the Unemployed brought between 175 and 200 people to the Hull House Sunday afternoon, where the rally originally began, and down the streets of downtown Chicago.
"All sorts of different people came: folks from the Illinois Labor History Society, a class of high schoolers, Jobs With Justice, they work on organizing the unemployed, and there were some members of the Hull-House Museum Community as well," Durica said.
In addition to acting out scenes that occurred at different moments along the parade route, the crowd gathered afterwards at Hull House to see original newspaper clippings and mugshots from the event, and discuss more of the history.
Durica's next project: a full-scale re-enactment of the famous Haymarket riot, on the original site of the event, for the 125th anniversary of the fatal anarchist protest.
Check out photos of the event, courtesy of Jason Creps here: