Street Car Strike in Charlotte

Charlotte's most serious labor disturbance occurred near midnight on August 25, 1919, when five men were killed and more than a dozen wounded by police guarding car barns of the Southern Public Utilities Company against damage by striking conductors and motormen. Operatives of street cars owned by Southern Public Utilities Company in Charlotte and other cities went on strike August 10, 1919, for higher wages and union recognition. When the company attempted to operate cars with new employees, various depredations were committed by strikers and sympathizers. Conditions became gradually more tense until the evening of August 25 when a large crowd assembled in front of the car barns on South Boulevard.
 
Protection of the property was undertaken by a group of 12 or 15 armed officers under Chief Walter B. Orr. A rope deadline was stretched along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street from the car barns. When pressure collapsed this line, the crowd surged forward and police were ordered to fire. More than 100 shots were fired by police and attackers. Within minutes three men were dead and many wounded. Later two other men died as a result of wounds, and many who had been less seriously injured reported to the hospitals.
 
Wild rumors of retaliation by union members and their friends impelled Mayor Frank R. McNinch to summon and appoint a citizens' protective committee. By three or four o'clock in the morning several hundred men had reported to the City Hall, then located at the corner of North Tryon and Fifth Streets. As each man arrived, he was given a gun from the local armory, with ammunition, and assigned to a patrol station. At the same time calls were sent to nearby towns for units of the National Guard. First to arrive at 8 A.M. were troops from Lexington, followed quickly by troops from Statesville, Lincolnton, Hickory, Durham, and Winston-Salem.
 
Troops were demobilized August 30 and no major disturbances occurred thereafter, though cars were operated by men recruited from throughout North and South Carolina. On September 5 the strike was officially terminated by a contract in which both sides made concessions, and all striking employees were retained.

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