"Please don't let it be a Muslim," repeated Muslims around the world when first hearing of the Boston bombings.
But Muslims are hardly the first to worry that the horrific actions of a few will have a negative impact on all members of their group. Some of the deadliest U.S. terror plots, like the Oklahoma City bombing, were perpetrated by white men. However, at the turn of the century, German/Irish/Polish/Italian immigrants worried that they'd face added prejudice in the wake of bombings and assassinations perpetrated by members of their own ethnic group.
Here are 8 terror plots and high profile crimes that made immigrant groups and ethnic minorities repeat the same "Please don't let it be a ____ " refrain throughout U.S. history.
|Haymarket Affair, 1886|
The Haymarket Affair was a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago. In all, seven policemen and four workers were killed when a dynamite bomb was thrown at the police as they attempted to disperse the protesters. Eight defendants were tried for the crime, five were from Germany and a sixth was a U.S.-born citizen of German descent.
The Haymarket Affair "set off a national wave of xenophobia, as hundreds of foreign-born radicals and labor leaders were rounded up in Chicago and elsewhere," according to the History Channel.
|Assassination of US President William McKinley, 1901|
Leon Czolgosz, a 28-year-old American of Polish descent assassinated U.S. President William McKinley in 1901.
"After McKinley died, the American media blamed Polish immigrants. They were outsiders, foreigners, with a suspicious religion - Catholicism - and strange last names," wrote Al Jazeera columnist Sarah Kendzior. "At a time when Eastern European immigrants were treated as inferior, Polish-Americans feared they would be punished as a group for the terrible actions of an individual. 'We feel the pain which this sad occurrence caused, not only in America, but throughout the whole world. All people are mourning, and it is caused by a maniac who is of our nationality,' a Polish-American newspaper wrote in an anguished editorial.'
|Bombing of Los Angeles Times Building, 1910|
Brothers and labor leaders John and James McNamara admitted to bombing The Los Angeles Times building in 1910, and killing 21 workers. The press played up their Irish roots, according to historian Kristofer Allerfeldt, although their motivations seemingly had little to do with their ethnicity. The event also furthered national concerns over the radicalization of the American labor movement.
|The Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco, 1916|
On July 22, 1916, a bomb went off at a parade held in anticipation of the United States' imminent entry into World War I. The suitcase bomb, which killed ten and wounded forty, was thought to be planted by labor leaders Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings, although both men were later pardoned.
In the McNamara and the Mooney cases... "'the 'perpetrators', like Csolgosz were American-born of Catholic stock, and like Csolgosz, the press frequently played them up as foreign -- in both cases, Irish -- and thus more prone to violence," wrote Kristofer Allertfeldt in his book Crime and the Rise of Modern America.
|Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Indictment for Bank Robbery, 1920|
Two Italian-born anarchists living in Boston were executed for allegedly murdering two men during a 1920 bank robbery despite overwhelming evidence against the pair. This particular case may have been the result of xenophobia and fear of radical communism, rather than one that invoked the sentiments. Either way, in the midst of the (first) Red Scare, Atlantic writer Sage Stossel wrote that "it was clear that both the judge and jury were prejudiced against immigrants with radical political beliefs." It is now widely believed that the two men were innocent.
The year prior in 1919, a militant anarchist named Carlo Validinoci blew up the front of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's home in DC, precipitating the the Palmer Raids of 1919 and 1920 in which 10,000 individuals suspected of radical leftist activity were arrested, 3,500 were held in detention, and 556 foreigners were eventually deported under the Immigration Act of 1918.
|The Wall Street Bombing, 1920|
On September 16 of 1920, a blast killed 38 and seriously injured 143 on Wall Street. A horse-drawn wagon carrying 100 pounds of dynamite was detonated. Although the bombing was never solved, investigators believe it was carried out by Italian anarchists, furthering the so-called "Red Scare."
|Bombing of Sol Hurok's Office, 1972|
An anonymous caller took responsibility for the 1972 bombing of impresario Sol Hurok's office on behalf of Jewish people in the Soviet Union. The bomb killed 2 and injured 9. The Jewish Defense League denied responsibility for the bombings, but applauded the bombers. The JDL has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This bombing was one of multiple acts of terror which was closely linked with the JDL in the 1970's.
The terrorist acts reportedly made it harder for Jews to emigrate from Moscow to the United States.
"A number of Jewish activists refused permission to emigrate … feel that [anti-Soviet] harassment in New York hurts their cause and may give Soviet authorities an excuse to become even more intransigent," the New York Times reported at the time.
|Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN) Attacks|
The Puerto Rican nationalist group which advocated for the island's independence was responsible for at least 120 bombings in the U.S. in between 1974 and 1983, which killed 6 American and injured dozens. One of the most significant bombings was one that went off at the historic Fraunces Tavern in NY, killing 4.
The actions were highly controversial within the Puerto Rican independence movement itself, with many within the movement rejecting the violent action as "strategically misguided and politically dangerous." The group found even less popular support in Puerto Rico.
A source told the Christian Science Monitor that "'not only does the FALN not have support in Puerto Rico; it has been widely condemned (there)," adding that "the FALN's terrorist activities tend to give many Americans the wrong impression of Puerto Ricans in general."