On this date, in 1934, Minneapolis, Minnesota was a powder keg of tension. The United States (and, indeed, the rest of the world) was in the grips of the Great Depression. Teamsters Union Local 574 was on strike, bringing deliveries of goods into the city to a near-standstill. Local 574 was met with counter-protests from an anti-union group called Citizens Alliance. Both sides of the conflict had histories of being quite extreme in their practices and this would lead to the tragedy that would unfold.
On July 20, 1934, members of Citizens Alliance tried to use trucks to break through the Teamsters’ picket lines. When the Teamsters refused to move out of the way, Citizens Alliance pulled back, for the moment. Shortly later, the trucks returned, but they were now accompanied by an armed police escort working under orders from Mayor A.G. Bainbridge and Police Chief Michael Johannes. The Teamsters still refused to move, so the police opened fire on the strikers – killing two and wounding 67. The two men who died were both Teamsters: John Belor and Henry Ness.
The events in Minneapolis were not the only labor movements to be met with violence on this date. In fact, police in Seattle used tear gas to disperse a crowd of striking longshoremen that same afternoon. With jobs being so scarce during the Depression, the tension between law enforcement, labor unions, and employers was certainly at a fever pitch.