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“ Who wants a beer?” “ We Do!”

What started as a moderately small protest, quickly swelled to an estimated 100,000 marchers (and some accounts put that number closer to 150,000) carrying the signs “We Want Beer.”

If you have missed men marching through the streets carrying signs “ We Want Beer” in a parade held on May 14, 1932, here we go down the history to catch the glimpse of “We Want Beer Parade.”

The parade was organised by the city’s mayor Jimmy Walker. The parade was originally called the ‘Beer for Taxation’ march but quickly became popular as the “We Want Beer!” parade. The parade was organised in objection to the Eighteenth amendment which prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import and export of alcoholic beverages.

 It was said that the prohibition made life difficult for New Yorkers. The illegal sale and distribution of alcohol had many criminal encounters which led to some 400 murders each year by bootleggers and gangsters in New York. The nation was also dealing with rampant unemployment due to the Great Depression. It was hard to combat the increased crime and the city lost its revenue from the various alcohol taxes which forced the mayor to dramatically reduce both his police and fire departments. 

“The parade will furnish the best count of noses I can think of, much better than the passing of resolutions, or the writing of letters to Representatives in Congress,” Walker told the New York Times.

He argued that repeal, which finally came on December 5, 1933, would aid in balancing the federal budget, as well as relieving the unemployment crisis.

One of the slogans they chanted was “Beer for Prosperity” and they also chanted the call and response “Who wants beer?” followed by “We Do!”

“ When Congressman Emanuel Celler heard about the event, he said he’d come and bring a bunch of friends. You’d be able to pick him out in the crowd by the two signs he’d be holding: “Never Say Dry” and “Open the Spigots and Drown the Bigots.” The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Grand Army of the Republic (a group of Civil War veterans) also turned out to march in the parade. Students and society matrons also joined the fray.”

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