“When I was in Leavenworth, there was a bunch of Mennonites – In cuz they wouldn’t fight in the war. ‘Gainst their religion. It’s also against their religion to shave their beards or wear buttons on their clothes, and they were being forced to do both by the prison guards. So they refused to work. Went on a strike, right there in Hell’s Half Acre.
They were handcuffed to the bars of a cellhouse, eight hours a day for two full weeks. They were put with their hands up like this, so’s they had to stand on their toes, or those cuffs would cut into their wrists. Can’t nobody stand on their toes for eight hours.
Pretty soon their fingers would start to swole up, and they’d turn blue and then crack open, and the blood would run down their arms – Eight hours a day, day after day, and still they wouldn’t work, still they tore the buttons off their uniforms every time they were sewed back on. Tore em’ with their teeth, cuz their hands wouldn’t close no more.
Now, I don’t claim a thing for myself, but them fellas never lifted a gun in their lives, you couldn’t find any braver in my book.”
Matewan, written by John Sayles