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Can We Have Our Electricity Back, Please?

February 26, 2010, 11:54 am

ChineseTacoma.JPG.jpegAs a followup to these posts (1, 2), and in honor of The West Wing, I note that Tacoma, Washington, was the recipient not only of electricity from the United States Navy, but, 45 years earlier, occupation from the United States Army.

In the winter of 1885, anti-Chinese sentiment swept the west coast. In Tacoma (and elsewhere) that sentiment took the form of a pogrom against the city’s ethnic Chinese residents, who were summarily and violently evicted from Tacoma in the first week of November:

At nine o’clock on the morning of November 3, 1885, steam whistles blew at the foundries and mills across Tacoma, to announce the start of the purge of all the Chinese people from the town. Saloons closed and police stood by as five hundred men, branding clubs and pistols, went from house to house in the downtown Chinese quarter and through the Chinese tenements along the city’s wharf. Sensing the storm ahead, earlier in the week, about five hundred Chinese people had fled from
Tacoma. Now the rest were given four hours to be ready to leave. They desperately stuffed years of life into sacks, shawls, and baskets hung from shoulder poles–bedding clothing, pots, some food. At midday, the mob began to drag Chinese laborers from their homes, pillage their laundries, and thrown their furniture into the streets….The mob marched the Chinese through heavy rain to a muddy railroad crossing nine miles from town. [3]

Some were able to pay passage on the next passenger train that came through; some hitched on freight trains; some struggled on foot to Portland.

U.S. Army troops were sent to restore order, which, the New York Times announced, had quieted the city:

The rabid, riotous anti-Chinese talk ceased with the arrival of the troops. Those who had so freely indulged in this chatter, who had discoursed so pathetically on this havoc created by the dreadful Chinaman and the danger of utter extinction to the American citizen by his presence, all at once became wonderfully scarce. The cry “The Chinese must go” was suddenly hushed, and the number of truly good and law-abiding citizens became unusually large.[4]

The unit was the 14th (U.S.) Infantry Regiment, who would be fighting Chinese, rather than protecting them, fifteen years later. [5].

(There’s a map of the mob’s route here. Warning: PDF!)

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