Leader of the Workingmen's Party in California during the late 1870's, Denis Kearney called for the expulsion of Chinese immigrants, arguing that they took jobs away from Americans because they were willing to work for lower pay. "The Chinese must go," was Kearney's watchword.
Opponents to Kearney's racist views often pointed out that he was an immigrant himself, having come to San Francisco from Ireland in 1868. By 1872, he was owner of a carting business and had become self-educated through wide reading and regular attendance at a Lyceum of Self-Culture on Sunday afternoons.
Following anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco in 1877, Kearney at first joined with local businessmen to form a vigilante group aimed at preventing further violence. But he then switched sides, speaking out against the Chinese as a champion of the unemployed, and soon became leader of the newly formed Workingmen's Party. Repeatedly arrested for inciting violence, he was repeatedly acquitted, but after some limited political success, including the election of a mayor sympathetic to their views, Kearney and his party returned to obscurity by 1878.