1917 July 3

“Slacker Raids” Round Up Alleged Draft Evaders in WW I


“Slackers” was a label given to young men suspected of avoiding the draft in World War I. The “slacker raids” were a series of massive roundups of young men by government officials and private citizens based on nothing more than unverified suspicions, prejudices and stereotypes. In addition to the raids on this day, another set of massive raids occurred on September 14, 1917.

The private citizens were volunteers in the American Protective League (APL), a private organization of citizens who carried badges issued by the Justice Department but who had no legal authority to make arrests. Nevertheless, they detained and arrested people anyway. On the founding of the APL, see June 4, 1917.

The Slacker Raids were only one part of the attacks on suspected draft evaders or German sympathizers during World War I. For private vigilante attacks, see May, 2, 1917 and October 28, 1917.

The repression of dissent during World War I gave rise to first the National Civil Liberties Bureau (July 2, 1917) and then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on January 19, 1920.

Learn more: Paul L. Murphy, World War I and the Origin of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

And about the history of the ACLU in times of national crisis: https://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-history-defending-liberty-times-national-crisis

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