New York Times, December 10, 1909
Officers of the striking Shirt Waist Makers' Union are anxious to obtain a judicial interpretation of the rights of pickets. Several recent clashes between representatives of the union and the police have led to this desire. The representatives of the union believe that pickets have the right to approach strikebreakers and persuade them peacefully to stop work. The agents of the employers, and as the girls say, the police have been diligent in their efforts to prevent the strikers from accosting the workers.
Miss Henrietta Mercy of 58 West 115th Street called at THE TIMES office last night to relate her experiences as a picket yesterday. Miss Mercy is not herself a striker, but the private secretary of a woman of wealth. She is a sister of Dr. Anna Mercy of 182 West Houston Street, and is herself a graduate of the Normal College. She wore a tailor-made coat with a fur turban and stole. She showed a TIMES reporter a torn sleeve in her waist which she said had been ripped by the roughness of policemen.
"While not a striker myself," said Miss Mercy last night, "I am deeply interested in the girl workers of the east side. As secretary of the East Side Equal Rights League, I went out yesterday afternoon as a volunteer picket with Lena Cohen of 395 Grand Street, a striker.
"There were about a dozen of us picketing a shirt waist factory at Greene and Grand Streets. We girls walked peacefully up and down in pairs. I was with Miss Cohen. We had no intention of creating any violence. All we wished to do was to speak to the girls kindly. We were awaiting 5 o'clock when the strikers should leave the factory.
"As the girls got ready to come out of the factory, between twenty and thirty special policemen employed by the factory as guards for the workers, formed a double line on the sidewalk, one line on the curb and the other along the building, or the Greene Street side. They hurled themselves upon us and threw us off the sidewalk onto the pavement. They threw us so hard that some of the girls fell on the stones. We tried to get back on the sidewalk and they shoved, elbowed and even kicked some of us to keep us in the street.
"I managed to break through the line. A uniformed policeman picked me up and pinned me against the wall. I was so excited I forgot to take his number. The special policemen seized the other girls and pinned them against the wall till the strike-breakers had passed by. I said to the policeman who held me:
"You are supposed to be impartial. All we want to do is talk to these girls and you have no right to hold us against our will. It's our privilege to talk to them if they want to. He replied:
" 'You can walk and talk all you want to, after they're gone. But keep still now, or I'll run you in.'
"I got free after the girls got away and started to run after them toward the elevated stairs at Grand Street and East Broadway. One of the special policemen seized me and threw me against a hydrant. I narrowly missed having my skull fractured. I picked myself up, and managed to reach the uptown stairs where several of the strike-breakers had gone.
"The special policemen followed and nearly pulled the clothes off me to keep me from going up the stairs. They called me the most vile and insulting names, and finally dragged me from the stairs. I was weak from struggling and mad with shame when I reached my sister's office in Houston Street with my clothing all disarranged and my waist torn. I believe that I should have been badly injured if a crowd had not gathered and shamed the men."
Jacob Berbarinder of 28 Norfolk Street and Pauline Kushner of 19 Rutgers Street were fined $5 in Essex Market Court yesterday for assaulting Oscar Shapiro of 106 Davison Street on Wednesday evening. Miss Kushner and Derbarinder both denied that they were striking shirtwaist makers. The assault on Shapiro was an incident of strike disorder.
Shapiro was walking along Grand Street, near Eldridge Street, with a bundle under his arm, when some one cried out, "Scab! Scab!" A crowd of 500 persons collected and started to pummel him, crying, "Lynch the scab!" Special Policeman Herman Albert rescued Shapiro and arrested Miss Kushner and Derbarinder. Shaprio is a pipemaker. The bundle he carried contained old clothes. It was mistaken by the crowd for a bundle of shirtwaists made by strike breakers.
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