“There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere -- in factories, offices, butcher stores, on street corners, in private businesses. And each carries in himself the germ of death for society.”

-J. Howard McGrath


Image: The First Roar of The Twenties


Palmer raids were a series of violent and abusive law-enforcement raids directed at leftist radicals and anarchists in 1919 and 1920, beginning during a period of unrest known as the “Red Summer.” Named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, the raids and subsequent deportations sparked a vigorous debate about constitutional rights.

Police would pull suspects out of their apartments, often without arrest warrants. One thousand people were arrested in 11 cities. Some of those who were held weren’t allowed lawyers and were not informed of the charges. Around 249 Communist sympathizers were deported in December 1919. The boat utilized for this was nicknamed the Soviet Ark and the Red Ark. More violent abuses abounded: many were held secretly without being charged and beaten when they would not inform on others. When they would refuse to sign a statement admitting to being anarchists, their signatures were forged.

Though the raids were popular with American citizens, they eventually elicited much criticism, and Palmer faced rebukes from Congress. He predicted an armed Communist uprising to justify further raids and other actions. When that never materialized, his plans fell apart and he was subject to near-universal mockery.