What Were the Palmer Raids?

The Palmer Raids were conducted in 1919 and 1920 and attempted to arrest foreign anarchists, communists and radical leftists. The Palmer Raids were led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer.

Fueled by unrest following World War I and the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, anti-communist and xenophobic sentiment ran rampant in the United States. These fears materialized as a viable threat after a mail bomb plot involving 36 explosive packages was set off on May Day in 1919. On June 2, 1919, another series of bombings took place, which destroyed Palmer's home. Following this, Palmer and J. Edgar Hoover created the General Intelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On Nov. 7, 1919, federal and local authorities conducted a raid of the headquarters of the Union of Russian Workers in New York City. More than 200 individuals were arrested. On Nov. 25, 1919, a second raid of the headquarters took place, and this raid uncovered a bomb factory.

Palmer believed that deporting immigrants was the solution to the problem. His office succeed in deporting 249 radicals to Russia on Dec. 21, 1919. Another raid on Jan. 2, 1920, resulted in the arrest of thousands of individuals in more than 30 cities. More raids were conducted on the following day. About 1,600 people were set to be deported, but Louis Post, the acting Secretary of Labor, reversed more than 70 percent of these.

When the public became aware of the brutality of the raids, opinion turned against Palmer. His fate was sealed after a revolution he predicted would take place on May Day in 1920 never materialized, thus ending the Palmer Raids.