Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Columbine Massacre

Yesterday, Nov. 21, was the 80th anniversary of the Columbine Massacre--not the one you remember, but the state-sanctioned and capitalist-funded murder of five striking miners in the company town of Serene, Colorado, home of Rocky Mountain Fuel Company. The strike began when the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) called for a general strike to protest the execution of Ferdinando Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in April 1927 for allegedly murdering an armored car guard during a hold-up attempt; in reality, they were probably killed for their anarchist political beliefs.

The strike was wildly successful in the coal fields of Colorado, principally because working conditions there were so poor; in the previous decade, hundreds of coal miners in the state had died in mining accidents. Conditions for a successful labor action were about as favorable as one could expect in a state that viewed the Ludlow Massacre of the decade before as a success.

The Columbine Mine was one of the few mines still open; the owner of the mine had died in the months previous, and his daughter, a social worker, had taken over much of the responsibility for operating the mine--although she had not been able to assume complete control. Which is why the Colorado "rangers," plain-clothes police recently recruited, were standing on the outskirts of Serene barring entry to the strikers. A striker determined to exercise his right of free speech approached the gate, where he was grabbed and struck with a length of gas pipe, which the rangers were using as billy clubs. When angry strikers burst through the gate, the police retreated to the entry to the mine, where they set up a skirmish line and began firing on the crowd--allegedly aided by machine guns that had been set up. In the end, five strikers were killed, and countless others, along with wives and children, were included in that total.

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