Colorado police brutality retrospective: the 1934 Relief Strike Battle, UP story “Girl Radical Leads Mob in Denver Riot”
By Eric Verlo
NOT MY TRIBE - 7/22/2012 2:11AM MDT
If one image captures the “Relief Strike Riot” of October 30, 1934, it’s of Patrolman CV Satt who continues to fire his service revolver after he’s felled by a bottle thrown by a striking picketer. Although Colorado newspapers were anti-union, their accounts vary enough to reveal the escalation of violence for which the DPD was responsible and for which they and the newspapers I’ll bet have never apologized. This article will be the first of a series to unearth the newspaper accounts which documented the events of Oct. 29 through Nov. 3, 1934, mostly because the police tactics and media defamation are remarkably similar today.
(Caption on above photograph: “This remarkable photograph was taken when the rioting between Denver police and “relief strike” picketers was at its height at W. Jewell ave. and the Platte River yesterday. Patrolman C. V. Satt is shown rising after he had been struck over the head with bricks and a shovel. He has his service pistol in his hand, ready to fire at his assailants, but Sergt. Henry Durkop is restraining him.”)
INTRODUCTION: THE BATTLE
As with many “riots”, the confrontation of Oct. 30, 1934 was instigated by the abrupt arrest and detention of a union organizer. What follows is an entertaining eyewitness account which attempts to defame the picketers and laud the police officers for their restraint, although the other reports and photographic record suggested otherwise.
Colorado Springs Evening Telegraph, October 31, 1934, page 1, column 8: GIRL RADICAL LEADS MOB IN DENVER RIOT — FERA Project Pickets Spurred Into Battle by Woman Believed Imported Agitator By DAVIS CAMPBELL, United Press Staff Correspondent
DENVER, Colo, Oct 30 (UP)– A dark haired, attractive girl led demonstrators into hand to hand battle with police here today, as the picketers, under alleged communist leadership, sought to force a strike of Denver FERA workers.
The girl, who was believed by police to have been an imported communist sympathizer, was the spearhead of the rush of demonstrators who attempted to rescue their arrested leader, Gene Corish, 35, of Denver, from the hands of police.
I followed the demonstrators from the time they gathered with the intention of picketing the FERA projects. Police believed they planned to descend on a project at Alameda avenue and Cherry creek. Instead they headed for another at Evans street and the Platte river.
FERA Workers Fight Reds.
There they rushed into a group of FERA workers and sought to take away their tools. The relief workers fought back. But, by the force of superior numbers the demonstrators were winning the spirited battle when police rushed up.
Several picks and shovels had been thrown into the stream.
The police leaped into the midst of the hand to hand fighting. They seized Corish, who appeared to be the leader of the rioters, and dragged him to a patrol wagon.
Instantly the girl leader of the rioters set up a cry of “Don’t let the (here she used an unprintable epithet) have him” and she started toward the patrol wagon swinging a shovel someone had wrenched from a worker.
Others joined the rush. Bricks and clods flew thru the air toward the little band of a dozen husky policemen, outnumbered about 50 to 1 by the rioters.
The patrolmen formed a cordon around the patrol wagon, and retreated slowly toward it, fighting every step of the way, but using only their clubs and fists. They very apparently were seeking to avoid serious injury to anyone.
Officer Felled by Bottle.
Suddenly a beer bottle flew thru the air and struck one of the patrolmen (I learned later he was Carl V. Satt), squarely on the head. Satt dropped like a log.
A rioter stood over him with a shovel in his hands, apparently ready to swing another blow at the unconscious man.
Driven to desperation by this development, police drew their pistols and fired what sounded to me like more than 30 shots.
A rioter dropped, wounded thru the hip. He was Henry Brown, later found to be superficially wounded.
I think Patrolman Marshall Stanton shot him. Stanton told me later he believed this was the case.
I was certain, as I watched from some distance away, that I saw two other rioters drop, but, if others were wounded, they were carried along by their fellows and were not taken to hospitals.
Rapidly the ranks of the demonstrators broke, giving ground before the police fire. Several paused long enough to hurl bricks and rocks such as those which had already injured Sergt. James Pitt and Sergt. Henry Duerkop.
The police made 10 arrests in all.
Thru all the violence, FERA workers sided with police. They appeared determined not to give up their jobs.
INTRO 2: PHOTOGRAPHS
From the Rocky Mountain News, October 31, 1934, page 4
Caption reads: “This view was taken just before police and so-called relief striker started their bloody battle at the Platte River near W. Jewell ave. yesterday. The arrow points to Patrolman C. V. Satt, who was struck in the head by a missile and critically injured. Other patrolmen are shown on duty around the patrol wagon, as one of the picket leaders is being placed inside.”
Caption reads: “During the heat of the battle. This view shows the action in the encounter between police and strike picketers on the Platte River yesterday. Two of the picketers, knocked down by policemen, are shown lying on the ground.”
Caption reads: “After the smoke of battle. This shows the battleground where strikers and police met yesterday just after all the action had ceased. Two strikers are shown down on the ground and beyond them is Patrolman C. V. Satt, who was perhaps fatally injured when struck by missiles of the strikers. He is prone on the ground but has pulled out his revolver.”
Caption reads: “R. W. Rankin, a relief supervisor, shown waiting for the ambulance after he had been struck over the head by a patrolman following a private fight at the strike demonstration held yesterday at Civic Center. He suffered a severe scalp wound.”
Caption reads: Henry W. Brown, who was shot in the hip during the encounter between the demonstrators and police on the Platte River yesterday. He is shown here as he lay on a cot in county jail after his wound had been treated in Colorado General Hospital.”
INTRO 3: NEWS HEADLINES
CS Gazette, (AP) Oct 29, 1934:
Relief Strikers March on Capitol – Governor Refuses to Talk to Crowd When One ‘Red’ Won’t Keep Still
Rocky Mountain News, Oct 30
‘Relief Strikers’ March On Capitol, make Demands – Threaten Violence at Projects Today If Officials Do Not Grant All They Seek
Will Rogers – Says Bread Line Is Encouraged by Deficit of New York Stock Exchange
Young Folk Lambast Older Generation For Getting World Into Present Mess – No Punches Pulled as Boys and Girls Have Their Say
CS Evening Telegraph, Oct 30,
RELIEF RIOTERS BATTLE DENVER POLICE
Agitators Shot and Four Officers Injured as Mob Tries to Foment Strike – Blazing Guns Disperse Communist Led Crowd, Radio Car and Gas Station Burned, Score of Attackers Hurt, FERA Workers Refuse to Walk Out
Girl Radical Leads Mob in Denver Riot – FERA Project Pickets Spurred Into Battle by Woman Believed Imported Agitator
RMN, Oct 31
POLICE ARMY WITH MACHINE GUNS WILL GUARD FERA WORKERS TODAY
Force of 300 Officers Will Use Bullets and Tear Gas If Necessary to Protect Relief Workers From Molestation – Agitators Threaten Violence After Yesterday’s Bloody Clash
Witness Says Police Fired When Driven Back to Car – Gives Graphic Account of Rush by Screaming Men and Women Who Volleyed Rocks at Officers
CS Gazette, Oct 31,
RESUMPTION OF VIOLENCE IN DENVER STRIKE FEARED
City Tense After Bloody Riot on South Platte – Barricade Erected at Table Mountain, to Be Visited Today by Agitators
CS Evening Telegraph, Oct 31,
DENVER QUIET BUT TENSE AFTER RIOTING
Mob Gathers But Fails to Carry Out Threat to March on projects – Police Precautions Against Further Outbreaks Nip New Demonstrations; Report Agitators on Way to Foment Trouble in El Paso County – Mob Gathers in Englewood but Fails to Carry Out Threat to March Against FERA Projects
Don’t Expect Any Agitator Trouble on C. S. Relief Jobs p1, c7
Mountain at Golden Resembles Fortified Castle as Workers Prepare to Resist Strike Mob p1, c7
New York Times, Oct 31
‘Hunger Marchers’ Routed at Albany; Rioting in Denver – Many Injured in Denver – Relief Strikers Attempt to halt Federal Project–One Shot Fighting Police, p1, c1
RMN, Nov 1
Relief Strike Riots Subside as Police Act – Agitators Fail to Start Anything at Various FERA Projects
Pretty Girl From Illinois Finds Denver Police Nice p4, c1
CSET, Nov 1
Roundup Ends Denver Relief Strike Threat – With Agitators Arrested, Leaderless Mob’s Spirit Broken; Plot to Spread Disorder in State Fails
U.C.L.A. Branded Communist Hotbed
RMN, Nov 2
File Charges Today Naming 15 as Rioters – Two of Group Face Fine of $1,000 and Year in Jail If Acts Are Proved, p14
College Students Battle Radicalism – Form Vigilante Committee at Coast School