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Goon squad

A goon squad is a group of people, often composed of hired criminals, detectives, or mercenaries, formed to intimidate and assault a specific group of opponents.[1]

Examples

In the United States, a goon squad is a group of criminals or mercenaries, commonly associated with pro-union violence or anti-union violence,[2] though they may be employed in other situations as well. In the case of pro-union violence, a goon squad may be formed by union leaders to intimidate or assault non-union workers, strikebreakers, or parties who do not cooperate with the directives of union leadership.[3] In the case of anti-union violence, goon squads are traditionally hired by employers as an attempt at union busting, and resort to many of the same tactics, including intimidation, espionage, and assault.[4]

During the labor unrest of the late 19th century in the United States, businessmen hired goon squads composed of Pinkerton agents to infiltrate unions, and as guards to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of factories. One of the best known such confrontations was the Homestead Strike of 1892, in which Pinkerton agents were called in to enforce the strikebreaking measures of Henry Clay Frick, acting on behalf of Andrew Carnegie, who was abroad; the ensuing conflicts between Pinkerton agents and striking workers led to several deaths on both sides. The Pinkertons were also used as guards in coal, iron, and lumber disputes in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.

In some cases, corporations have been formed specifically to provide the services of goon squads. The Corporations Auxiliary Company was a corporation created to conduct "the administration of industrial espionage",[5] providing goon squads and labor spies in exchange for payment. In 1921 the Corporations Auxiliary Company was known to masquerade under a dozen different names, and specialized at electing its agents to union office in order to control or destroy unions.[6]

An example of goon squad activity outside the US was the 2019 Yuen Long attack, or 721 incident, during the 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests, in which an armed mob of suspected triad members dressed in white indiscriminately attacked civilians on the streets and in Yuen Long station with steel rods and rattan canes,[7][8] including the elderly, children,[9] protesters returning from a demonstration in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island,[10] journalists, and lawmakers.[11][12] Pro-democracy activists accused pro-Beijing advocates and police of colluding with of the attackers, pointing to the slow response time and uncharacteristically disinterested demeanor of the police[13] and a pro-Beijing politician and member of the Legislative Council, Junius Ho, who greeted a group of armed white-clothed men, shaking their hands and calling them "heroes", giving them thumbs-up and saying "thank you for your hard work." At least one of the white-clothed men who shook hands with Ho has been shown to have been inside Yuen Long station during the attacks.[14]

The 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel refers to time as "the goon squad" and "a goon", emphasizing how time robs most of the characters of their youth, innocence, and success.[15]

In 2023 five deputies and a police officer in Mississippi were charged with and pleaded guilty to torturing two black men at a home. The six officers reportedly referred to themselves as the "Goon Squad".[16]

Etymology

The term "goon" was reputedly coined by F. L. Allen in 1921,[17] perhaps a variant of the US slang "gooney" which had been around since at least 1872, meaning a simpleton or fool,[18] which may have derived from "gony", applied by sailors to the albatross and similar big, clumsy birds (c.1839). In the late 1930s, E. C. Segar’s comic strip Popeye had a character named "Alice the Goon". It was from this character that large stupid people or stupid things came to popularly be called "goons" and the term entered into general use.[17][19] "Goon" evolved into slang for a thug (1938),[20] someone hired by racketeers to terrorize political or industrial opponents (1938),[21] or a German stalag guard for American POWs (1945).[20]

See also

References

  1. ^ "goon squad". Collins English Dictionary. 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  2. ^ "The McClellan Committee hearings, 1957". Bureau of National Affairs. 1958. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Menefee, Shelden C. (March 26, 1938). "The Decline of Dave Beck". The Nation. 146 (13): 354–355.
  4. ^ "The Growth of Anti-Unionism". Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO (16). AFL-CIO. 1985.
  5. ^ Richard C. Cabot, Introduction, The Labor Spy--A Survey of Industrial Espionage, by Sidney Howard and Robert Dunn, Under the Auspices of the Cabot Fund for Industrial Research, published in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Magazine, Volume 71, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, 1921, page 27
  6. ^ Sidney Howard, The Labor Spy, A Survey of Industrial Espionage, Chapter 1, The New Republic, reprinted in Mixer and server, Volume 30, Hotel and Restaurant Employee's International Alliance and Bartenders' International League of America, April 15, 1921, page 43
  7. ^ "'Where were the police?' Hong Kong outcry after masked thugs launch attack". The Guardian. 22 July 2019. Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  8. ^ "45 injured after mob attack at Hong Kong MTR station". Channel NewsAsia. 22 July 2019. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  9. ^ "How marauding gang dressed in white struck fear into Yuen Long". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. 23 July 2019. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  10. ^ Leung, Christy; Ting, Victor (22 July 2019). "Police chief defends 'late' force response to mob violence in Yuen Long". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  11. ^ Cheng, Kris (22 July 2019). "Chaos and bloodshed in Hong Kong district as hundreds of masked men assault protesters, journalists, residents". Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP). Archived from the original on 21 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  12. ^ Jha, Preeti (31 August 2020). "Hong Kong protests: The flashpoints in a year of anger". BBC. Archived from the original on 23 April 2021. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  13. ^ Leung, Christy; Ting, Victor (22 July 2019). "Police chief defends 'late' force response to mob violence in Yuen Long". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  14. ^ Cheng, Kris (22 July 2019). "Chaos and bloodshed in Hong Kong district as hundreds of masked men assault protesters, journalists, residents". Hong Kong Free Press. Archived from the original on 21 July 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  15. ^ Jane, Ciabattari (29 June 2010). "Jennifer Egan Interview, A Visit from the Goon Squad". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2023-10-04.
  16. ^ Andone, Dakin (August 14, 2023). "6 ex-officers, some of whom called themselves 'The Goon Squad,' plead guilty to state charges in torture of 2 Black men". CNN. Retrieved November 3, 2023.
  17. ^ a b John Ayton. The Oxford Dictionary of Slang (1998), pg. 309
  18. ^ John Ayton. The Oxford Dictionary of Slang (1998), pg. 308
  19. ^ Robert Hendrickson. Word and Phrase Origins, 4th ed., Facts on File, 2008, pg. 358.
  20. ^ a b John Ayton. The Oxford Dictionary of Slang (1998), pg. 114
  21. ^ John Ayton. The Oxford Dictionary of Slang (1998), pg. 264
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Goon squad
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