Posts Tagged ‘Federal Hall New York City’

The Financial District’s “hard-hat” riot of 1970

March 2, 2013

hardhatriot2New York has some ugly riots in its history.

One of the strangest is the Hard Hat Riot, a clash between construction workers and war protesters in May 1970.

The spark was the Kent State University shootings. After the deaths of four students at the hands of National Guardsmen there, antiwar protesters here announced a rally memorializing the dead at City Hall.

Early on May 8, hundreds of peace activists gathered at Wall and Broad Streets. After their numbers swelled to about a thousand, they marched to the steps of Federal Hall and demanded the U.S. get out of Vietnam.

That’s when about 200 workers, carrying American flags and pro-USA signs, approached the protesters. Police reportedly did nothing as the hard hats chased protesters and beat them with their helmets for an hour.

Hardhatrally

“The workers then stormed City Hall, cowing policemen and forcing officials to raise the American flag to full staff from half staff, where it had been placed in mourning for the four students killed at Kent State University on Monday,” wrote The New York Times.

An estimated 70 people were injured, and six were arrested. Mayor Lindsay slammed the police for not stopping the rioters.

This earned the wrath of union leaders, who said the riot was a spontaneous act by workers who were tired of antiwar activists criticizing their country . . . an explanation disputed by some witnesses, who claimed to see two men in suits directing the rioters with hand motions.

New York City: the capital of the United States

February 20, 2012

It lasted little more than one year.

But between April 1789—when George Washington was sworn in as the first president (at left)—and July 1790, New York was the nation’s capital.

What was the city, with a population of just 28,000, like back then? Rich and crude.

“Men and women of the upper class dressed in the latest fashion from London or Paris and attended balls,” explains a 1989 New York Times article.

“But the streets were unpaved, narrow and crooked, often unlighted at night and frequently impassable because of wandering pigs.”

Despite these problems, many citizens, as well as brand-new secretary of the treasury Alexander Hamilton, wanted New York to be the permanent capital.

The city’s advantages: it was equidistant between New England and the South and had all the hotels, restaurants, and other amenities a proper capital needed.

Problem was, Thomas Jefferson, the new secretary of state, hated New York. He thought the nation’s capital should be located in “a new rural setting on the Potomac, across from his native Virginia,” write Ric Burns and James Sanders in New York: An Illustrated History.

Jefferson and Hamilton were deadlocked on the issue—until Jefferson agreed to acquiesce to Hamilton’s demand for the Federal government to assume states’ Revolutionary war debts.

In turn, Hamilton abandoned the dream of keeping the city the nation’s capital.

[Illustration at left: View of Broad Street by George Holland, 1797. Federal Hall, where Washington was sworn in, is in the center; above, the George Washington statue at the modern-day Federal Hall, commemorating his inauguration]


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