On May 5, 1898, workers organized a strike to protest the government of Antonio Starrabba di Rudinì, holding it responsible for the general increase of prices and for the famine that was affecting the country. The first blood was shed that day at Pavia, when the son of the mayor of Milan was killed while attempting to halt the troops marching against the crowd.
After a protest in Milan the following day, Antonio di Rudinì's government declared a state of siege in the city. Infantry, cavalry and artillery were brought into the city and General Bava-Beccaris ordered his troops to fire on demonstrators. On May 9, 1898, the troops used artillery to breach the walls of a monastery outside Porta Monforte, but they found inside only a group of beggars who were there to receive assistance from the friars.
According to the government, there were 118 dead and 450 wounded. The opposition claimed 400 dead and more than 2,000 injured people.
King Umberto I praised the general and awarded him the medal of Grande Ufficiale dell'Ordine Militare dei Savoia, saying that "You have rendered a great service to the King and to the Country". The decoration exacerbated the Italian population's indignation. On the other hand, Antonio di Rudinì was forced to resign in July 1898.
On 29 July 1900, at Monza, Umberto I was assassinated by the anarchist Gaetano Bresci, who claimed he had gone directly from America to avenge the victims of the repression, and the offense given by the decoration awarded to General Bava-Beccaris.
 See also
- Massacres of 1898 (Italian)