On September 10th, 1897, at least 19 immigrant anthracite miners were killed and many more wounded while on strike for higher wages and equal rights.
After a series of broken promises from the mine owner, the 300 to 400 miners peacefully marched to a coal mine in the town of Lattimer to support the new United Mine Workers of America.
The miners, mostly of Polish, Slovak, Lithuanian and German ethnicity, were shot and killed by a Luzerne County sheriff's posse.
Sheriff Martin and 73 deputies were arrested and put on trial. They claimed that the strikers refused to disperse and charged toward the sheriff and deputies.
Witness John Pusti's formal testimony during the trial:
"I was with the strikers when the shooting occurred. When we approached the Sheriff he walked to the middle of the road and told us to stop. Some few of the men went forward, and I then heard two volleys from the deputies. None of the strikers was armed. I was shot in the right arm and as I started to run I was shot in the right leg, the ball entering from the back and coming out in front."
Although nearly all of the strikers were shot in the back, the Sheriff and his deputies were acquitted.
The massacre led to more than 10,000 members joining the United Mine Workers and just three years later the union won large wage increases and safety improvements for miners throughout the region.
In 1972, the United Labor Council of Lower Luzerne and Carbon Counties and the UMW erected a small memorial on the site where the massacre occured.
“It was not a battle because they were not aggressive,
nor were they defensive because they had no weapons
of any kind and were simply shot down like so many
worthless objects, each of the licensed life-takers
trying to outdo the others in the butchery.”
– Inscription on monument erected in Lattimer, Pa.
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