Suddenly, two broad-shouldered men approached the rocking-chair sitters. They wore identical gray suits and they carried black satchels with straps over their shoulders. The men in gray told the sitters that these were private chairs for rent, and that if they wanted to continue sitting they had to fork over five cents a day for the better seats, and three cents a day for seats that were not in as preferential a position in the park. Some people vacated their seats, but others paid. People who did neither were physically ejected from the seats. When they asked why, the men in gray said, ”Them’s Mr. Spate’s chairs.”
In an act of desperation, Spate ordered his men not to place his chairs on the ground, but to pile them in heaps in Madison Square Park and Central Park, and rent them only if they were paid for in advance. However, as soon as someone rented one of Spate’s chairs, members of the crowd grabbed the chair and broken it into little pieces. Soon the crowd, tired of Spate and his chairs, began bombarding Spate’s men with rocks and stones, as Spate’s men hid behind and under the chairs piled up in heaps. Spate himself entered both parks to try to enforce his contract, but was forced to flee both times, as he was chased with rocks and stones flying past his head.
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Park Commissioner Clausen tried to defend his actions by telling the press that there were always plenty of free benches for people to sit on, except, of course, on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The New York Tribune pointed out that those were the days with the biggest demand for seats in the parks. As this issue became monumental, Spate became more resolute. He ordered more chairs be placed in Central Park, and also in Madison Square Park, which was across the street from his office. Some people paid to sit, and those that didn’t, were unceremoniously thrown out of the chairs by Spate’s thugs in gray suits.