- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

Acts of terrorism against individuals and cities were part of U.S. history about 80 years ago, when a staggering economy and foreign events after World War I led to violence and terrorist acts here.
The precipitating event was the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917 and the regime's call in 1919 for workers around the world to revolt. The subsequent formation of communist parties in the United States sparked fear in a nation that by 1919 was experiencing 3,600 strikes involving more than 4 million workers.
Although most of the labor stoppages were lawful and unaffiliated with either the "Red activity" of Communists or foreign-induced parties, some individuals bent on terrorism plied their trade.
In April 1919, for example, 37 bombs were mailed to various political and business leaders, including Seattle's mayor, tycoon John D. Rockefeller, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and the postmaster general. All were thwarted by the Post Office Department except one, sent to a former senator in Atlanta, who was unhurt. His maid, however, lost both of her hands in the explosion and his wife suffered severe burns.
On May 1, 1919, the international labor holiday May Day, riots erupted in Boston, New York City and Cleveland.
Direct bombings also hit the homes of noted individuals in cities such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. A bomb was detonated at the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer at 2132 R St. NW on June 2. Mr. Palmer and his wife were unharmed, but the assailant, an Italian alien from Philadelphia, was killed in the explosion.
The identification of this attacker and some foreigners involved in other attacks added substance to the widespread public opinion that Communists committed the attacks. The term "Red scare" later identified the crisis.
Federal authorities subsequently rounded up and often deported foreign suspects. On Jan. 2, 1920, authorities in the largest raid arrested 4,000 suspects in 33 cities nationwide, most without adequate protection of their civil rights.
But the public muted complaints about the attorney general's methods because of its fear that such tactics were the only sure means to protect the nation, given the notes found with bombs.
The note found outside Mr. Palmer's home said, "There will have to be bloodshed; we will not dodge; there will have to be murder; we will kill. We are ready to do anything and everything to suppress the capitalist class. "
Although the attorney general believed more attacks would occur on May Day, they did not happen, and the "Red scare" ended. Jurists and civil rights leaders did complain about the means used to deal with the crisis.
One of the worst acts of violence came after the "Red scare," specifically, in New York City's financial district on Sept. 16, 1920. Around lunch time, a massive bomb went off at the intersection of Broad and Wall streets. The explosion was so intense that individuals sitting near open windows as high as the sixth floor in an adjacent building were severely burned.
Windows in other buildings near the explosion were broken, and debris was widespread. Thirty-three persons were killed, and more than 200 others were hospitalized. Damage to the area was estimated at up to $2.5 million.
The bomber or bombers apparently had used a horse-drawn wagon filled with explosives, leaving the scene before detonation. Although the outcry of New Yorkers and other Americans was as significant as it had been earlier, hysteria did not follow. Most people concluded an isolated and demented group of individuals who were never identified or found committed the horrible crime.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide