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THE HAYMARKET AFFAIR: Were the Eight Accused Defendants Guilty of Murder?
During a peaceful labor protest meeting near Haymarket Square in Chicago on May 4, 1886, a bomb exploded in the ranks of the police who had been sent to disperse the crowd. The explosion left one officer dead and, after an exchange of gunfire, six other officers mortally wounded. Eight men, dubbed “anarchists” by mainstream newspapers, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Supporters of a guilty verdict argued that the accused men had all expressed a desire through their speeches, writings, and actions to bring down the government and were trying to incite violence with the police at the meeting. Opponents of a guilty verdict, however, argued that the prosecution did not prove that any of the eight defendants either made or threw the bomb that killed the officer, and that no evidence existed that the defendants had conspired to commit murder.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Should the jury find the accused anarchists guilty of murder as a result of the Haymarket bombing? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the Haymarket Affair this month.
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