1924 February 10

Police in Wilkes-Barre, PA Block Radicals’ Meeting


On orders from the mayor, the police in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on this day block a meeting by the Workers Party of America to honor Nicholai Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and leader of the Soviet Union, who recently died. The Workers Party was the public name of the political efforts by American communists.

The meeting featured Rose Pastor Stokes, a noted radical, who went to prison for her anti-war activities during World War I. About 300 people had gathered outside the Bloom Garage, but were denied entry into the building. A verbal confrontation with members of the American Legion occurred, but without violence. The mayor of Wilkes-Barre had earlier declared that “I will not allow any Communist meeting to be held here.” The ACLU in New York City had announced the meeting as a test of free speech.

The first national report on police misconduct was the 1931 Wickersham Commission report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, released on August 10, 1931, which found that the “Third Degree,” using brutal methods to gain confessions, was “widespread.”

Read About the ACLU in the 1920s: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Learn more about civil liberties in the 1920s: Paul L. Murphy, The Meaning of Freedom of Speech: First Amendment Freedoms from Wilson to FDR (1972)


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