#1 Hard Hat Riot
Stop being juveniles,” a Lindsay aide, Donald Evans, admonished a construction worker.
“What do you mean, being a juvenile?” he replied, punching Mr. Evans on the chin.
And right after my blog marks “Kent State Day,” I celebrate the Hard Hat Riot. This year, I even got to include rarely seen photos taken on the scene, by a Marxist-turned-conservative photographer who now, like me, lives in Toronto.
I know: I’m a bit of a bore about this mostly forgotten 1970 incident, but my fascination with it pre-dates the Tea Party movement — in which, forty years on, I hear echoes of the energy and attitude that sparked the Hard Hat Riot. If only they’d had talk radio and the internet back then.
On May 8, 1970, New York mayor John Lindsay order all flags on city buildings lowered to half staff, in memory of the students who’d died in the Kent State shootings four days earlier.
Construction workers at the World Trade Center building site got wind of the plan. When anti-war protester assembled at the George Washington statue on Wall Street that day — complete with Viet Cong flags — they faced a crowd of “suits” and hard hats who’d spontaneously forces against the hippies.
By noon, more than 1,000 people had gathered and the vigil had escalated to a rally, and about 200 construction workers had had enough. They made signs reading things like “America, Love it or Leave it” and got right up against the police line that separated them from the students. They obeyed it for a few minutes, but the tension got to be too much and the construction workers started chasing the students through the street, beating some of them severely with fists, clubs and crowbars. The construction worker mob fought their way into City Hall and demanded that the flag be raised to full mast again — it had been lowered to half mast to honor the dead at Kent State. Fearful of further damage from the mob, the Deputy Mayor ordered the flag to be raised. The riot eventually fizzled out on its own. Six arrests were made and more than 70 people were injured.
I can’t help but think of the Hard Hat Riot when I hear about construction workers protesting the Ground Zero mosque. What about you?