Coxey's Army Confrontation at U.S. Capitol (1894)

Labor Struggles/History

SE corner of U.S. Capitol: At the height of a serious economic depression in 1894, bands of unemployed workers formed "industrial armies" which headed for Washington to demand various reforms. Coming from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Boston and the midwest, the "Commonwealers," as they called themselves, rode seized trains and converged on Washington in April and May. The largest contingent, led by "General" Jacob Coxey, having marched on foot most of the way from Ohio, entered the District on April 29, 1894 and established Camp George Washington. Cheered by thousands of onlookers, on May 1, 1894, Coxey's Army marched seven miles down 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol where Coxey was arrested while trying to speak and many of his unarmed followers were beaten by police, many of whom charged the crowd on mounted horses. "Clubbing...will not drive thought out of people's minds," Coxey told AFL head Samuel Gompers, "a club will subdue one man, but it will recruit one hundred for the cause." Following this confrontation, the workers remained in the District through most of the summer, camped at various sites, including Camp Tyranny (see 53).

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