Lager Beer Riot

Lager Beer Riot - April 21, 1855

When Levi Boone replaced Issac Milliken as Mayor in 1855, he was elected for the Know Nothing Party, due to Protestant prejudice.

After taking office, Boone declared that all Chicago police must be native-born Americans, sufficiently angering the entire Irish community. Boone also enforced Sunday closing laws, which had been ignored since they were passed. This was a double attack on foreigners (who at the time made up 60% of the population), as the great majority were workingmen, whose only day of rest was on Sunday.

The police began by closing German beer gardens on the North Side, while looking the other way for "American" saloons south of the river. A test case for the issue went to court, where 500 Germans and Irish showed up and stormed the courthouse, creating a huge riot. Mayor Boone declared martial law in an attempt to regain control.

14 men were indicted for mob violence, with two getting convicted.1

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