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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.

Joe Bussell, age 16

Joe Bissel age 16

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:

Ford blamed the depression on the poor,...
Just as is done today.


...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.

Originally posted to Occupy Wall Street on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 10:35 PM PST.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Hippie.

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Comment Preferences

  •  In memory of those who lost their lives (10+ / 0-)

    on this date (and on so many other days during the Great Depression)


    In honor of those who fought so hard for basic rights: a decent wage, a chance for an education, healthcare, control over their own bodies . . . I cannot believe we are fighting these fights all over again.

    Special blessings to all those who wage these fights in our names, on our behalf . . . and to our champions in government who support them (and us).

    Thank you for this diary.

  •  You Know My Parents Are Not Liberals (9+ / 0-)

    but you know what I was raised to respect unions. You never, NEVER fuck with a union. Unions rock.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 11:08:34 PM PST

  •  We all stand on the shoulders of giants (10+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this diary.

    It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision. ~ Helen Keller

    by Pam from Calif on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 11:09:04 PM PST

    •  A Couple Weeks Ago (6+ / 0-)

      I was talking to my dad. He was having a lot of work done on his house. Union labor.

      Me and my dad like to talk. We were talking about the work, the labor, how he found the people. He told me something he has told me all my life, "I don't want my house to burn down."

      That is a joke, clearly not something that happens now, but where he lived there was a time if you didn't use union labor, well your house or business might burn to the ground.

      People were not messing around .... my dad wasn't unhappy saying this .....

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 11:16:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You missed the great documentary on the (4+ / 0-)

    the march That ran on PBS about a year ago.

    I think it was called "The Ford Hunger March." You could search for it on It was a brilliant recreation. Try to find it.

    PBS has run a lot of documentaries on Black heros that we should know about. Do you know who William Still was? You should. Go look them

    I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

    by samddobermann on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 03:41:45 AM PST

  •  And next came the (4+ / 0-)

    Veterans bonus march in May, 1932.

    "White-collar conservatives flashing down the street. Pointing their plastic finger at me."

    by BOHICA on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 07:16:15 AM PST

  •  WE NEVER FORET (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III

    March 7, 1932
    Dearborn, MI
    Ford River Rouge Plant

    Joe Bussell-16
    Joe York-19
    Coleman Young
    Joe DeBlasio
    Curtis Williams-d. later of wounds
      inflicted by police cubbing

    If there's a reason for the rich to rule, please Lord, tell us why. -Battle of Jericol, Coal Mining Women

    by JayRaye on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 07:38:55 AM PST

  •  From Organized Labor and the Black Worker (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raster44, Horace Boothroyd III

    1619-1981 by Philip S Foner:

         On March 7, 1932, the TUUL Auto Workers Union, the Unemployed Councils, and the Communist Party, jointly organized a march of 3,000 jobless workers, of whom 200 to 400 were blacks, to the gates of the Ford plant to demand work. About 90% of Ford's employees were out of work, & a large number of the 3,000 marchers were jobless Ford workers. Many of the placards carried by the marchers called for an end to Jim Crow practices against Negro auto workers, and one of the 14 demands to be presented to Ford was "no discrimination against Negroes as to jobs, relief, medical services," etc.
         The marchers never had a chance to present their demands. They were met by Dearborn police & firemen & Ford Service Company police. Shots were fired, tear gas was sprayed, hoses poured icy streams of water onto the marchers in the near-zero weather. When it was over, four workers were dead (Joe York, Joe Bussell, Joe De Blasio and Coleman Young), and Curtis Williams, a black former Ford worker, who was clubbed & gassed, d. of wounds later. More than 30 [other accounts give 60] were wounded. The funeral procession on March 12, 1932, for the murdered workers, black and white, was the largest demonstration in Detroit up to that time.

    If there's a reason for the rich to rule, please Lord, tell us why. -Battle of Jericol, Coal Mining Women

    by JayRaye on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 07:55:15 AM PST

  •  "It literally happened, people starved to death." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raster44, Horace Boothroyd III

    From jacket cover of Coal Mining Women:

        In the early '30's I had one of my babies starve to death. It literally happened, people starved to death. Not only my baby, but the neighbors' babies. You saw them starve to death too. And all you could do was go over and help wash and dress them and lay them out and sit with the mothers until they could put them away.
                                   Sarah Ogan Gunning

    If there's a reason for the rich to rule, please Lord, tell us why. -Battle of Jericol, Coal Mining Women

    by JayRaye on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 08:02:20 AM PST

  •  HB3, thank you for this diary, thank you for the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raster44, Horace Boothroyd III

    links & thank you for helping us to NEVER FORGET our Labor Martyrs.

    If there's a reason for the rich to rule, please Lord, tell us why. -Battle of Jericol, Coal Mining Women

    by JayRaye on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 08:15:09 AM PST

  •  So many younger people have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, Horace Boothroyd III

    no grasp of the trials that union workers faced to provide the benefits that they so casually take for granted today. Good working conditions, safety in the workplace, 8 hour workday, overtime pay, vacations, sick days, livable salary, retirement pensions, health benefits, the list goes on and on. Granted that unions have been harboring graft and some run by thugs but overall they gave the common working person a voice in the workplace. Robber barons have become a natural occurrence again as Unions have lost their might in America's workplace.

    America's middle class rise was easily apparent in the 40's-70's but Reagan's classless breaking of the air controllers union led to the fall of unions and the fall of the middle class. I could never understand then how people could vote against their own interests as I can't fathom it now.

    I read Lightbulb and I feel so helpless to his plight in his daily trials in his series of Confessions of a Retail Worker. Some of our leaders are so blind to the fates faced by so many of us today. A country so rich as America has let many of its best citizens go hungry, homeless, and sick for the benefit of a few.

    Vote for progressives who will make America again the dream of everyone in the World.

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