On this day in 1885, white miners working at the Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, WY started a riot that resulted in the murder of over two dozen Chinese immigrants.
The trouble started at the beginning of the work day when ten white miners showed up on the work site and announced that Chinese miners were banned from a more productive part of the mine (workers were paid per ton of coal they mined, making certain work locations more desirable). The confrontation resulted in a fight in which two Chinese miners were beaten. One of the beaten men later died of his wounds.
The white miners walked off the job, resulting in a work stoppage. They went into town where they gathered at local bars, and at the Knights of Labor (a union that was trying to organize the white miners). After a few hours of drinking and fuming about the Chinese miners (who worked for less money than the white miners, and were blamed by the whites for low wages), a large group of white miners headed for Chinatown. Many of the miners were armed.
In the ensuing chaos, 28 Chinese miners were killed, 15 were wounded, and 79 homes were burned to the ground. Many of the homes were looted by white miners before they were burned. At the request of the territorial governor, the Army was called in to restore order.
Sixteen men were eventually arrested, but the grand jury refused to indict them. They returned to a hero’s welcome in Rock Springs. No one was ever successfully prosecuted for the crimes committed that day.
History Matters – “To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot
Wikipedia – Rock Springs Massacre
Wikipedia – List of victims of the Rock Springs massacre