The actions of Occupiers today is not a new way of showing our displeasure at being treated like pawns by the corporate elite. And their methods of dealing with us has not changed yet. Resorting to using law enforcement as the violent arm of corporate power is a long standing method of attempting to silence the oppressed. Today in history there was a massacre at the River Rouge Ford Plant in Michigan. Four or Five labor leaders were killed (there are conflicting accounts). Many were injured, there is tear gas in the only video of the event below.
He was one of those killed that day.
What is sad about reading about this part of the struggle in labor history is that eventually labor won and our nation enjoyed prosperity before greed yet again became more important and we again are fighting the same battles that were fought then. So again people have taken to the streets to protest the inequality that has become the norm due to imbalance of power in relation to monied interests.
Mattie Woodson tore off a piece of her dress and leaned down to wipe blood off the neck of Joe DeBlasio, desperately trying to save the life of the young demonstrator. It was too late. DeBlasio was dying. He lay in Miller Road in Dearborn, Michigan, just a few yards in front of the gigantic River Rouge complex of the Ford Motor Company. He had been shot when Dearborn police officers and thugs from Ford’s brutal “Service Department” opened fire on unarmed demonstrators. It was March 7, 1932. The protest which had originally been called “the Ford Hunger March” had just become a massacre.
DeBlasio was one of five people who died after being shot that day. Dozens of others were wounded. The Ford Hunger March took place in the midst of the Great Depression, just 28 months after the stock market crash of October 1929. The month of March 2012 marks 80 years since that massacre, but its effects can still be felt.
The Ford Hunger March was a response to economic devastation. No city in the United States was hit harder by the Great Depression than Detroit. By 1932, some 10,000 children huddled every day in Detroit’s bread lines. Eighty percent of the auto-building capacity lay idle. Wages had dropped 37 percent for those lucky enough to have a job. The average monthly caseload of the city’s welfare department had increased almost 10 times – from 5,000 cases in 1929 to nearly 50,000 in 1932.
The same memes we are hearing today which basically boil down to deciding whether 400 people are greedy or is it that tens of millions are just lazy is also something we have heard before. Henry Ford brought out all the standard talking points to try and paint the economic collapse then as being the fault of the workers:
...and said in March, 1931, "These are really good times, but only if you know it. . . The average man won't really do a day's work unless he is caught and cannot get out of it." (p. 25, The Ford Hunger March, by Maurice Sugar, 1980). Ford refused to pay into an unemployed person's fund.
On March 7, 1932, thousands of unemployed workers marched on the Ford Motor Company. Led by Communist organizers, these were desperate workers, poor, ragged. Evictions were rampant throughout this period, and the previous week, a number of the marchers, including Joe DeBlasio, helped stop police from evicting an African American man from his home. (p. 81, Brother Bill McKie by Phillip Bonosky, 1953).
They marched from Detroit to the River Rouge plant. Their signs read, "We Want Bread Not Crumbs," "Tax the Rich, Feed the Poor," "Free the Scottsboro Boys," and "Stop Jim Crow." At the Dearborn line, the crowd was told to disperse. None of the marchers was armed, but teargas and fire hoses were used on the crowd. Finally, the order to shoot was given - scores were wounded. Killed outright were Joe York, Joe DeBlasio, Coleman Leny, and Joe Bussell.
This attack set off a wave of protests in many U.S. cities.