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The First Red Scare: A Communist Protest in Washington, DC in 1928

Parade of 'Reds' Here Ends in Arrest of 29 - November 11th, 1928 (Washington Post)
Explore the history of the First Red Scare in Washington, DC in 1928, with an article about a protest outside the State, War and Navy Building. Learn about the labor movement and how it pushed socialist and communist ideologies on the working class.
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Everyone is aware of the communist scare stirred up by Senator McCarthy in the 1950s. Due to the media circus around that, sensationalizing it for the masses, it is still what we think of when we talk of anti-communism. We shouldn’t forget that there was a first Red Scare, earlier in the century.

McCarthy was on a witch hunt to out anyone who had affiliations or sympathies with the communist party, with the great fear of foreign influence. The first anti-communist Red Scare was a backlash against the labor movement pushing socialist or communist ideologies on the working class.

Parade of 'Reds' Here Ends in Arrest of 29 - November 11th, 1928 (Washington Post)
Parade of ‘Reds’ Here Ends in Arrest of 29 – November 11th, 1928 (Washington Post)
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The city of Washington was no stranger to protests, going back to it’s beginnings. This is an article we came across about a communist protest outside of the State, War and Navy Building in the fall of 1928.

For the second time in the last year a large communist parade, composed principally of boys and girls, ran afoul of the police regulations yesterday and 29 of its members were arrested by headquarters detectives as they flaunted their “red” banners in a procession around the State, War and Navy Building.

The offenders against the regulation which requires a permit for a parade, were marched into the District Building in orderly fashion while they sang the “Internationale.” In the line were two boys 14 years old, who were later released in custody of their parents, and eight girls.

At  headquarters it was learned that the antimilitaristic demonstration was staged under the auspices of the International Defense League of America, whose principal officers were said to be out of the city. In view of  their absence the paraders were loath to talk but retained John S. Hornbeck, attorney, of the Woodward Building, to represent them and endeavor to raise bond.

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The banners which the young Communists carried “We Demand the Immediate Withdrawal of the Marines from Nicaragua,” “Free John Porter–He Refused to Become the Tool of Capitalism and Militarism,” “Down With Preparations for a New Imperialist War,” and “Our Fight Is for John Porter, a Fight Against Capitalism and Militarism.”

John Porter, the object of the picketers’ solicitations, is serving a sentence in Leavenworth Prison on a charge of desertion from the Army. He is vice president of the Textile Union at New Bedford, Mass. His sympathizers declare the desertion charge was not pressed against him until he became active in the textile strike.

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The purpose of the parade, it was learned, was to make a preliminary demonstration before presenting written demands of the league to Secretary of War Davis. The paraders, howwever, were arrested before they went into the building to see Davis.

The petition that the picketers sought to present charged that Porter was confined without trial at hard labor at Fort Adams. He enlisted in the Army at the age of 16 and deserted as a protest against the use of troops against striking industrial workers, they declared.

Organizations represented in the demonstration were the All-America Anti-Imperialist League, American Negro Labor Congress, National Textile Workers Union, Young Workers Communist League, Young Pioneers of America, Workers Commuist [sic] Party and International Labor Defense.

State, War and Navy Building in the 1920s
State, War and Navy Building in the 1920s

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