Harjo: An Indian story caught on film in Philadelphia

"Thirty-five years ago, Philadelphia police killed an Iroquois ironworker, shot his co-workers and got away with it, but four ironworkers were charged and convicted of assaulting the police. Happily, the story didn't end there.

This Philadelphia story begins with Iroquois ironworkers from New York and Canada who were building a bridge in a seedy part of town, just as their fathers and grandfathers had worked high steel throughout the Northeast. They were bunking dorm-style, one floor above street level on the back side of a low-rent hotel called the Colonial.

On the evening of March 2, 1972, some 25 ironworkers were on their balcony, an open metalwork ledge and railing that ran the length of the hotel. They and residents on the other five balconies above them were watching a cops 'n' robbers chase scene being filmed in the alley below for a B-movie, ''Folks in Blue,'' a Bagman Production.

After the director said ''cut,'' someone threw a mattress off a top-floor balcony. It landed on the pavement, narrowly missing actors who had been there seconds earlier. Police officers yelled at the ironworkers on the first balcony about the mattress. Pointing above them, the ironworkers yelled back that they didn't throw anything. The yelling match escalated to name-calling, policemen ran up to the balcony and a fight ensued. When it was over, two ironworkers were in the hospital, more were in jail and one was in the morgue."

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: Philadelphia Indian story - a 35-year memory (Indian Country Today 12/7)

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