Poetry Power with Chris

Oral Tradition (n): The spoken relation and preservation, from one generation to the next, of a people’s cultural history and ancestry, often by a storyteller in narrative form.

This is the story of how Americans in Washington State protesting for better working conditions were met with hostility by law enforcement. This story is not taught in schools and so we see that poetry can be used to preserve a record of the things that some may prefer we collectively forget, much like the Bards of old…

The Everett Massacre of 1916

In Everett management placed a bounty
Upon striker’s heads and, from Snohomish County
Came Sheriff McRae with untrained vigilantes
To run shingle workers from out of their shanties
Standing pier side with ax handles and badges
As the side opposed steamed near
Singing was heard from the decks of Verona
“Hold the Fort” calmed their fears

Five months before McRae made a name for
Beating up strikers and felt no shame because
Law was his business, violence his game
And his 200 guns were paid just the same
This Everett ruckus would be put down
In a similar fashion, this was HIS county
Some heads need a smashing
When Reds come to town
Full pockets and jails by sundown

***

They steamed from Seattle, some 300 men, to help
their brothers from being beaten again
Aboard Callista and Verona they cheered
organizers fighting their fear
With upraised fists,
and bathtub gin,
they were anarchists
creating unrest
for worker’s rights
in the Pacific Northwest

***

Silence on the pier
As Verona drew near,
and she sent her first line ashore.
Then McRae said “I’m the sheriff here
now, let me make this painfully clear
you can’t come to Everett anymore!”

They considered each other, a mist in the air
For what seemed like a year no one spoke
Then a Wobbly man said “The Hell we can’t!”
And a pistol shot cancelled his vote
Passengers rushed to the starboard side and
Some people drowned when she nearly capsized
The gunfire lasted for over ten minutes
Vigilantes vs. Anarchists

Verona‘s Captain was repeatedly strafed
And survived by hiding behind the ship’s safe
Then the Engineer ordered engines astern
And the bow line parted, and Verona returned
To the harbor and warned Callista again
To turn from Everett, Washington

When questioning business ethics today
and avarice, please remember the scene
on the day limitless interest held sway
a maiden journey 12 made one way
The 5th of November, 1916

cw2010

A period illustration of events

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