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Palmer Raids Target Suspected Radicals


After World War I ends in 1918, labor unrest continues to make the nation uneasy. The Russian Revolution in 1917 sparks fears of a worker revolution, and a “Red Scare” sweeps the nation. Starting in May 1919, dozens of mail bombs are sent to political leaders. An anarchist blows himself up outside the home of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer.

Fearing a communist takeover, Palmer creates the General Intelligence Division and recruits J. Edgar Hoover as its leader. Over two months, beginning in November 1919, Palmer stages several raids across the country and arrests thousands of suspected communists, Socialists, anarchists and other radicals. Many are held without trial for a long time, and some are deported. Palmer later will be criticized for ignoring basic civil rights.