Hundreds of longshoremen stood in solemn lines this morning, flanking the sidewalks and doorway leading to the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. They bowed their heads as other longshoremen slowly passed, bearing the coffin of Jackson Taylor -- their friend, their coworker and now, in some minds, their martyr.
Taylor, a 59-year-old grandfather, died after being hit by a police cruiser Wednesday when picketing dockworkers at the Baltimore waterfront tried to charge aboard a freighter being unloaded by nonunion workers.
The incident occurred after a night of disturbances that stemmed from the protesters' frustration over an increasing loss of work.
Taylor's funeral today drew an estimated 1,500 dockworkers, including Thomas W. Gleason of New York, president of the International Longshoremen's Association. Other union officials arrived from as far away as Portland, Maine, and Brownsville, Tex.
Reps. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Helen Delich Bentley (R-Md.), who represent the Baltimore area, attended the funeral.
At 10 a.m., the funeral hour, longshoremen at 300 ports nationwide stopped working for half an hour to honor Taylor, at the union's request. Also in observance of Taylor's death, union longshoremen in Baltimore did not begin work until after 1 p.m. today.
While the funeral was a traditional ceremony, with only general references to the circumstances surrounding the death, union workers outside the church made no secret of their anger and sorrow.
"The man died to save our livelihoods," said Carl McKenzie, a longshoreman who, like Taylor, was a member of Local 333. "I was 15 feet away from him when he got hit. I saw him bounce off the windshield 20 feet in the air and I saw him try to get up. That's one thing I'll never forget. None of us will."
Gleason, in a brief interview before flying back to New York after the funeral, called Taylor's death "an awful tragedy."
But, he added, "It is drawing attention to everything happening to us in the country today."
Asked if the recent violence in Baltimore will spur more violence elsewhere, Gleason said: "I think the union can handle the situation without becoming tough. I hope so."
The picketing longshoremen in Baltimore were concerned about the loss of shipping business to other ports such as Hampton Roads, Va. Taylor was among about 200 longshoremen who gathered Wednesday on the docks near the Cypriot ship Depy, which had arrived with a shipment of cement from Poland.
The freighter was being unloaded by nonunion workers making an hourly wage of $5, about $12 an hour less than the wages of union members in the Baltimore harbor, union officials said today.
After protesters began throwing rocks and bottles, a police officer radioed for assistance. Officer Brian Schwaab, 24, rushing to the pier in his cruiser, accidentally struck Taylor, officials said.
An investigation by the police department and the state's attorney is continuing.
In his eulogy, the Rev. Michael Orchik referred to Jackson Taylor as "a man of gentleness and peace."
Orchik asked the congregation to "give thanks for some of the things all of you shared with Jack Taylor: the gift and the opportunity to work, and the freedom to associate with those who share a common work."
After the funeral, longshoreman John Dulay offered a more biting statement about the circumstances surrounding the death of "Banana Jack," so nicknamed because his crew usually unloaded shipments of fruit.
"Working men," Dulay said, "should not be pitted against each other."