When 150.000 people demonstrated demanding to be taxed

Rage during the Prohibition era flooded the streets with hundreds of thousands of protesters

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May 1932 was a particularly bleak time period in America. The United States was already in its worst economic period, with unemployment rising to 25 percent and the nation getting closer to the nadir of the Great Depression, which began in 1929 after the stock market crash. . If we add to this the rage that the 12 years of the Prohibition had caused, we were in front of a nation that seemed to be bent on frustration, despair and anger.

New York was trying to finance itself at the same time that thugs and mobsters were taking control of its streets, filling their hands with blood. The helmsman of the city at that time was Jimmy Walker, the mayor who saw the city coffers empty, as the "cocktail" of Prohibition and mobsters led to the loss of tax revenues of the city.

Then Walker came up with something that went down in history. He decided to organize a protest, with the main demand being beer. You heard right away, the alcoholic beverage, which, among other things, no one was allowed to drink, became the occasion for 150.000 citizens to take to the streets and demonstrate demanding what else, to tax beer and thus make it legal! "We want beer," read the placards at a demonstration that was deemed to have accelerated.

The man behind the path

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Before we talk about the day of the majestic march let us say a few things about the man behind it.

Jimmy Walker grew up in a poor home. His love for letters was not something that characterized him, nevertheless he studied and got a law degree, something that his father desperately wanted. But Walker was more artistic in nature, he liked to write songs! His entry into politics did not take long to come. He was, among other things, a member of the Senate from 1915 to 1925, through which he opposed the measure of Prohibition of liquor.

In 1926 he was elected mayor of New York and continued to speak out against the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned Americans from trading, importing, exporting and selling alcoholic beverages on Friday. Since he did not consider alcohol a crime, he also instructed the Police not to enforce the law, except in cases where alcohol caused incidents and incidents of violence.

Walker would popularly say that he "put his hands up and took his eyes off" in the political arena, as in his day he was bribed by businessmen. Franklin Roosevelt could not let this continue and forced him to resign in 1932.

The day of the majestic parade

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Such a temperament as that of Jimmy Walker knew how to get the spotlight on him and much more to create situations that everyone was talking about.

The "Beer for Taxation Parade" as it was called, a demonstration that gathered in addition to hundreds of thousands of participants and the attention of the media, was included in this context.

On May 14, 1932, about 150.000 people, men and women, thirsty for alcohol, flooded 5th Avenue. From Olympic idols, war heroes, businessmen and ordinary citizens, they all joined their voices under the slogan "We want beer"!

Not only did Walker start the parade in his hometown but he also managed to get the support of other mayors, who staged similar protests in their own cities. From the US, Scranton and Pennsylvania to Daytona Beach in Florida, citizens demanded that beer. The argument was very strong: legalizing beer and other beverages would add millions of dollars to public coffers and open up an industry that would employ thousands of workers. It was estimated at the time that the state lost $ 500 million a year in alcohol taxation.

Until then, the black market was flourishing. The policing was difficult with the result that illegal bars and distilleries mushroomed. The points of sale had reached 30.000, twice as many as in the pre-Prohibition era.

Smugglers produced and sold alcoholic beverages at high prices. Al Capone was in fact one of the mafia bosses who had then become rich as he controlled much of the trafficking. Seven years after the imposition of the Prohibition, in fact, deaths from beverage bombs began to increase.

How effective was this demonstration in lifting the Prohibition? This question, as many said, was difficult to answer. Finally, on December 5, 1933, the Prohibition of Drinking came to most of the United States, following the adoption by Congress of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Mississippi was the last state to legalize alcohol again in 1966.

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Celebrations after the lifting of the Prohibition