DC Unemployed Protest: 1930
The Communist Party organized demonstrations of March 6, 1930 were the first nationwide protest response to the Great Depression that had begun the previous fall. The economic collapse ultimately put one in three out of work in the U.S.

Protests were held in Detroit, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Seattle, Las Angeles and San Francisco among other cities. Demonstrations were also held on the same day in cities around the world.

The DC Communist Party and allied groups had begun preparations in the city for several weeks and police responded by arresting 10 people on April 30 for holding soapbox style speeches on the street corners near the Communist Party headquarters at 7th & P Streets NW. Similar meetings and police harassment took place at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union statue at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

They held a rally the night before at their headquarters where speeches were given and signs were made for the next day’s demonstration. The main themes were demands for good jobs, against police brutality, Jim Crow schools in the District and lynching.

Among the organizers were William “Bert” Lawrence, local party chair, Solomon Harper, International Labor Defense and Edith Briscoe of the Young Communist League.

Public demonstrations of this type were fairly infrequent at that time and public protests involving blacks and whites even more infrequent.

The picket in front of the White House was held with blacks and whites locking arms while picketing. Press reports estimated that several thousand nearby office workers came out to watch. When Lawrence stopped and began to speak to the crowd, someone in street clothes attacked him. Police then attacked the picketers and bystanders with tear gas and black jacks. Some fought back against the police.

Press reports indicate that 13 were arrested with an unknown number of injured, but only one that required hospital treatment.

The demonstrations made front-page news and were the lead stories in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun and helped put the Communist Party at the forefront of the fight against unemployment and racial discrimination in the District for the next decade.

For an off-site photo of this demonstration go to www.corbis.com and search for 42-31061064

For some short video clips of this demonstration, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Mljp0bzMWo

For more information see Baltimore Sun 3/7/30, Washington Post 3/7/30 (articles and photos) and the Baltimore Afro American 3/15/30.
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