Chaos reigned in 1919 America as Woodrow Wilson labored for his League of Nations while anarchist immigrants advocated domestic labor strikes – and newly-created police unions demanded pay increases comparable to the labor unions. In Boston, most of the predominantly Irish police force walked off the job and looting began in earnest as “professional criminals arrived by the trainload from New York and other cities to get a share of the swag.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Beginning of the End of the United States
“On the floor of Congress, Representative James Byrnes of South Carolina made an incendiary speech, accusing the Bolsheviks of influencing black Americans to turn against their country. He blamed the reds for the recent riots in Washington, DC and Chicago. A Department of Justice investigation of the role of radicals in racial unrest confirmed this accusation.
[Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer] estimated that there were 60,000 Bolshevik plotters loose in the United States. Virtually confirming this estimate for the jittery public, in Centralia, Washington, a gunfight broke out when the newly-founded American Legion, marching in its first Armistice Day parade, detoured to clean out an IWW [International Workers of the World] union hall with baseball bats and pistols. On November 7, 1919 . . . Palmer ordered federal agents to raid organizations suspected of Bolshevik ties in eleven cities.
During the fall [of 1919], paranoia about Soviet Russia had similarly replaced paranoia about Germany. The Bolsheviks were blamed for terrorist bombs and the ongoing epidemic of strikes. The US Army patrolled the streets of IWW strongholds, such as Bisbee, Arizona, and Butte, Montana.
When workers went on strike in the steel mills of Gary, Indiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and other cities, army military intelligence agents worked closely with local police to arrest hundreds of suspected Bolsheviks. On October 16, 1919, the Pittsburgh Post wrote . . . “every third man on the streets . . . seems to be a government official.”
In late December, 249 aliens seized . . . in roundups were marched to the aging troopship Buford and deported to Russia. Newspapers dubbed the ship “the Soviet Ark” and gave the story reams of publicity. As the ship got under way, one of the most outspoken radicals, Emma Goldman, shouted, “This is the beginning of the end of the United States.”
[J. Edgar] Hoover, backed by 250 armed soldiers, personally supervised the departure. The State Department said the deportees were “obnoxious” and a “menace to law and order” as well as to “decency and justice.” They were therefore being “sent from whence they came.”
Liberals were aghast that their former hero, Woodrow Wilson, apparently countenanced Palmer, J. Edgar Hoover and the operations of the military intelligence agents.”
(The Illusion of Victory, America in World War One, Thomas Fleming, Basic Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 425-426; 438-439)