Subversive Historian – 08/03/09

The Wheatland Hop Riot

Back in the day on August 3rd, 1913, the Wheatland Hop Riot took place in Northern California. Nearly two-thousand agricultural hop pickers toiled at Durst Ranch working long hours in the hot sun for low pay. Many of the workers slept a mile from the ranch in the open air without blankets in cold night temperatures while others had tents. All were subjected to unsanitary water supplies in labor conditions that screamed for unionization. The Industrial Workers of the World heeded the call of the hop pickers as leaders such as Richard Ford spoke to them about the need for a strike. The meeting continued until members of the local sheriff’s posse confronted Ford and attempted to arrest him. Workers sought to protect Ford, when shots were fired in the air. A riot ensued that left four people dead – a worker, the district attorney, the deputy sheriff, and a young boy who was a bystander.

Though Ford preached non-violence the state arrested him and Herman Suhr, a wobbly organizer who wasn’t even present for starting the riot. They were convicted of second–degree murder and sentenced to life. The Wheatland Hop Riot, nevertheless, harvested future organizing in the fields of California.

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