April 8, 1894: Jail Yawning for Gen. Coxey

Headline from The New York Times, Monday, April 9, 1894

Note the change of tone in the news coverage of (and government response to) the Coxey movement, as compared to that at the beginning of the march: from crackpot, to harmless, to drama. And now, perceived as a threat.

Plans are being put into motion which will ultimately thwart the efforts of citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech. And to provide a distraction from the purpose of the march: to make the case for good roads and for public investment in the nation’s infrastructure, which will result in reduced unemployment.…
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April 14, 1894: Commonwealers Nigh Unto Riot

Carl Browne, from Histories of the National Mall

From The New York Times, Sunday, April 15, 1894:

FROSTBURG, MD., April 14 — Revolt in the ranks of Coxey’s army today leaves the Commonwealers in a state bordering on riot. Chief Marshal Carl Browne of California was deposed as Marshal, and Louis Smith, “The Unknown,” is in full charge.

[pullquote]During one of the halts, Smith ordered the men to march, and Browne called a halt. In a war of words, Browne denounced “The Unknown” as a Pinkerton detective. Smith called for support, and all but the wagonmen responded.…
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The speech Jacob Coxey (almost) never gave

Coxey behind the bars - from PBS

When participants in Coxey’s Army (estimated at 500 people) reached Washington on May 1, 1894, having started their march in Massillon, Ohio, they were met by 1500 soldiers, with more on call in case of trouble.  Jacob Coxey went to speak, but only managed to make it through the first two paragraphs, before getting arrested for walking on the grass.

May 1, 1894

The Constitution of the United States guarantees to all citizens the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, and furthermore declares that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.

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The protest that made Occupy DC possible

Jacob Coxey traveling through Montgomery County, Maryland. Courtesy of Maryland State Archives.

Chaltain ties the Occupy DC protest of 2011 to the Coxey’s Army march of 1894.  Notable is the mention of the Capital Grounds Act, a measure used to silence political speech in Washington D.C.

At the time of the parade, the United States was in the second year of a major economic depression and millions of Americans were unemployed; Coxey believed he had the answer to the nation’s economic woes. He proposed that the federal government issue $500 million in treasury bonds, that it apply those funds to initiate a massive program to build up the nation’s roads, and that it hire an army of workers, all of who would be guaranteed eight-hour days and daily wages of $1.50.

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