1920 May 28

Prominent Lawyers Issue Report Condemning Palmer Raids


The Report upon Illegal Practices by the United States Department of Justice, written by twelve prominent lawyers, was a stinging critique of abuses of citizen rights by the Justice Department during the Red Scare, and the notorious Palmer Raids in particular. In the two Palmer Raids, on November 7, 1919 and January 2, 1920,.Justice Department officials across the country indiscriminately rounded up thousands of alleged radicals, most of them foreign-born labor union members, without arrest warrants and held them in deplorable conditions, denying them access to family members, friends, and lawyers.

The lawyers report was published by the National Popular Government League and the American Civil Liberties Union (founded on January 19, 1920). Signers of the report included Felix Frankfurter (January 20, 1939) and Zechariah Chafee, Jr. (February 8, 1957), both of Harvard Law School.

The report and its positive reception by other prominent Americans was the first sign that public opinion was turning against the anti-radical, anti-immigrant hysteria of the World War I years and the post-war Red Scare. Go to March 1, 1919, for the report on wartime violations of civil liberties by the National Civil Liberties Bureau.

Read the report: https://archive.org/details/toamericanpeople00natiuoft

Watch a documentary on the Red Scare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qutgIfhUL7g

Read the 1920 ACLU pamphlet “Seeing Red” on the post-WW I hysteria: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/groups/aclu/1920/0800-nelles-civilliberty.pdf

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