1919 December 16

Plan for “March in Manacles” to Protest WW I Political Prisoners


Opponents of World War I, which ended in November 1918, planned a “march in manacles” up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Christmas morning to protest the continuing imprisonment of an estimated 2,000 people convicted under the Espionage Act during the war. The march was planned to coincide with the pealing of church bells celebrating Christmas.

Even though the war had ended a year earlier, public hostility to dissent and political radicals continued. The two most notorious events were the two Palmer Raids in which thousands of alleged radicals were rounded up, detained, and in some cases deported without due process. The first Palmer Raid occurred on November 7, 1919, and a much larger and more well-known one on January 2, 1920.

The campaign on behalf of World War I political prisoners continued through the 1920s. See for example the “Children’s Crusade” on April 29, 1922. Finally, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pardoned all the remaining people in prison for WW I Espionage Act convictions on December 23, 1933.

Put the Red Scare in historical perspective, read: Christopher Finan, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America (2007)

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