Hidden Histories: Hard Hat Riots, May 8, 1970 presents:

Hidden HistoriesHidden Histories: Hard Hat Riots, May 8, 1970

This may be one of the weirdest Vietnam era events you’ve never heard of.

On May 8, 1970, just five days after the Kent State University massacre, several hundred anti-war protesters (most of them high school and college students)  planned to hold a memorial at Broad and Wall Streets, New York City.

A counter demonstration of support for Richard Nixon’s policies in Vietnam was kicked off by Peter J. Brennanan old labor leader in New York who supported the war. The counter demonstrators were primarily construction workers who happened to be building the world trade center. According to the New York times, One of the construction workers said that not only were the workmen organized but that also in at least one case they were offered a monetary bonus by their contractor-employers if they would take time off from their work to "break some heads."

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The construction workers descended on Wall Street from four directions. A thin line of policemen had blocked off the steps but the construction workers swept the policemen aside and moved on the students. They  scattered. According to the New York Times, "The workers sought them out, some selecting students with the most hair and swatting them with their helmets while chanting of "All the way, U.S.A." and "Love it or leave it."

The attack on the students was so well organized, a worker commented "I turned around and happened to see men in business suits with color patches in their lapels- they were shouting orders to the workers."

When republican Mayor John Lindsay criticized the police for not doing more to stop the violence, Peter J. Brenan again took action, organizing  a march against the major on May 11,  in which Several thousand construction workers, longshoremen and white-collar workers held signs reading "impeach the Red Mayor" and chanting "Lindsay is a bum".They held another rally May 16, carrying signs calling the mayor a "rat", "a Commy rat", "faggot" and "traitor".

In appreciation, after his reelection bid in 1972, Richard Nixon appointed Peter J. Brennan to be his Labor Secretary.

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    May 25th, 2010

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