"Mob Uses Torch in South Omaha - Thirty Houses Occupied by GREEKS and Other Foreigners Destroyed During Race Riot" article - Chicago Daily Tribune, February 22, 1909
Published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, February 22, 1909
MOB USES TORCH
IN SOUTH OMAHA
Thirty Houses Occupied by
Greeks and Other Foreigners
Destroyed During Race Riot.
SCORE HURT IN BATTLES
Members of Legislature Address
Anti-Alien Meeting and
Slaying the Cause.
Omaha, Nebraska, February 21 - [Special.] - Three persons were shot, a score of others injured by heavy missiles, and thirty houses partly destroyed by fire and axes as the result of race riots between hundreds of men of South Omaha and the members of the Greek colony there.
There were two mobs concerned in the affair, a second crowd renewing the attack tonight after the first had been dispersed by the police in the afternoon. There have been fifteen arrests made and the police are guarding the Greek settlement to prevent a third outbreak.
As a precaution the South Omaha fire and police board tonight issued an order that all saloons in the city shall remain closed until further orders.
The attack on the Greeks followed a mass-meeting where violence was urged by the speakers, among whom were two members of the state legislature and a former city attorney. The meeting was called after hundreds of men had signed a petition in which the Greeks were charged with serious crimes against girls and women.
The speakers referred to the murder of Patrolman Edward Lowery, who was shot and killed on Friday by a Greek whom he had placed under arrest. The slayer had been arrested while in the room of an American girl.
March Upon Greeks Begins.
When the meeting broke up, with the intention of meeting again tonight, a crowd of more than 1,000 men started toward the quarters of the foreigners in the neighborhood of Twenty-sixth and Q streets. They were determined to punish some of the leaders of the Greeks, but when two of the mob, Frank Sweeney and Joseph Gamble, both young boys, were injured in the attack on the first house by shots fired from the interior, some began to apply the torch.
Two blocks east another crowd smashed the front of a saloon and attempted to pillage the interior, when a squad of police charged the crowd and prevented the mob from securing the liquor.
A third crowd rushed to Twenty-fourth and L streets and attacked a confectionery store run by Demos Bros. The big plate glass windows were quickly smashed, the doors kicked in, and the stock and showcases destroyed. Mrs. Mary Demos and her aged father were in the store and both narrowly escaped death at the hands of the mob.
Police Are Caught Unawares.
The three attacks were made almost simultaneously and the destruction was complete before Chief of Police Briggs could get his scattered force together and stop the depredations. Meantime, Sheriff Brailey was notified and collected all the deputies possible and rushed them to South Omaha to aid the police. It took some time to get the force organized and during the interval Greeks were attacked on every hand.
The members of the mob assaulted many Italians and Roumanians, who were mistaken for Greeks.
The lawlessness lasted for three hours before a semblance of quiet could be restored. The police gained control about 6 o'clock, but were unable to disperse the crowd which thronged the streets in the vicinity of where the trouble occurred.
Every home and business place of the Greeks was under guard, and Chief Briggs of South Omaha had sent an appeal to Omaha for aid at this time. The authorities of the larger city refused after considering their legal rights to supply this aid. It also was said that they feared to take too large a force out of this city, because of the danger of a spread of the disorders to the larger place.
Mob Starts Out Anew.
It was thought that the officers were in control, but at 9 o'clock the mob had gathered again and it renewed its attack. The first disorder was at Thirtieth and Q streets, where the rioters smashed in the plate glass front of a Greek grocery store.
The proprietor, Dionisios Catapodis, and his family were in the rear of the store and as the husband came out he received a shot in the leg. A squad of officers reached the place in a few minutes and succeeded in getting the wounded man to the police station in an automobile by stealth.
A moment later the fire department was called to Thirty-second and Q streets, where the mob had set fire to a Greek grocery and residence. The rioters beat two of the Greeks into unconsciousness and started downtown with the third, beating him as they went. The police succeeded in getting the man away from the crowd and took all three of the injured men to the station.
Home of Thirty Burned.
At 9 o'clock the fire department was called to Twenty-eighth and R streets, where a large two story double frame building was in flames. Thirty Greeks had been quartered in the place, but all are believed to have escaped. The building was entirely destroyed, however. The besieged Greeks defend themselves with firearms, with which they apparently were all equipped. They fired a fussillade out of the windows, one shot hitting Charles Estroyl in the head. It was this scrimmage which undoubtedly enraged the crowd into setting fire to the building.
By this time the crowd had begun to appease its wrath and began to partially disperse. However, several hundred of the rioters continued to surge up and down Q street, apparently looking for additional places which might furnish some excuse for lawlessness. Chief of Police Briggs urged the crowd to disperse. In an automobile with several deputies he patrolled the streets, rushing to each point of new trouble.
At 11 p.m. a riot call was turned in from Twenty-sixth and N streets, where the crowd had gathered. The mob quickly fled to Twenty-fourth street, where they demolished a Greek candy store at 430 North Twenty-fourth street.
By this time almost every building in South Omaha occupied by Greeks, and many tenanted by Roumanians, had been wrecked. Twenty or more injured Greeks were given protection at the police station.