Herman Matson, a jobless father of six, dared to organize the unemployed and to protest the administration of aid in Hoboken.
After McFeely thugs beat Herman Matson, he was arrested for “inciting to riot.”
When the Great Depression struck, unemployed men and women all across the United States took to the streets to demand food and jobs—and often, the right to speak out at all. Some government officials responded to protestors with force, calling upon the police to brutally subdue them.

In Hoboken, a fiery, out-of-work laborer named Herman Matson responded to the relief crisis by attempting to organize the unemployed. He surreptitiously printed protest flyers on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine and called meetings in his apartment. But in Boss McFeely’s city, unsanctioned organizing was dangerous. The mayor allowed no dissent. Matson knew that leafleteers were regularly hauled down to the city jail, and that some emerged with swollen faces and broken ribs.

New York Post article reproduced in a 1938 Workers Defense League pamphlet.
Nevertheless, Matson joined forces with the Workers Defense League and held his first public meeting in the center of Hoboken, in Church Square Park. The WDL had been founded to protect the legal rights of workers, and its members were willing to battle for civil liberties on the streets and in court. Their support would soon prove vital. And Matson had forged links with Hoboken’s Italian community, too. Inspired by the activist’s flyers, a downtown resident had volunteered to translate his speeches, allowing Matson to reach the disenfranchised majority. Although McFeely flunkies heckled the speakers and threw rotten food, the organizer managed to make his case before 600 residents.

Matson had been warned. In October 1938, he dared to protest the city’s aid practices at another open-air meeting. He managed to utter one phrase before thugs allied with McFeely knocked him down and beat him bloody. When his wife, Elizabeth, tried to stop the assault, she too was beaten.

Listen to Judge Charles DeFazio, a former McFeely supporter, recall the forces pitted against anyone who challenged the Boss’s political machine. LISTEN
A 1937 march on Washington by members of the Workers Alliance, a multi-state association of “works project” employees and the unemployed.