“We Want Beer!”

A cast of thousands march to protest prohibition

Kathy Copeland Padden
4 min readMay 8, 2021


We’ll be keeping the 19th one though Photo by the Bill of Rights Institution

During the height of the Great Depression, getting 100,000 people hyped up about anything aside from finding work was a daunting task. Jobs were scarce, money was tight, and morale was low. Everything pretty much sucked.

But there was one thing that could drive the masses to the streets of New York City in the thousands — Beer.

On May 14, 1932, New York City Mayor and consummate showman Jimmy Walker led a Beer for Taxation march, which popularly became known as the “We Want Beer!” parade through the city’s streets. “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 explained to the New York Times. An estimated 100,000 people turned out to show their love for beer and distaste for the 18th amendment.

When Congressman Emanuel Celler heard about the event, he said he’d come and bring a bunch of friends. Celler said 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) turned out to march in the parade. Students and society matrons also joined the fray. Representatives from pretty much every segment of society were in attendance. This was some seriously intersectional shit here. Everyone wanted beer, dammit.

By the early 1930s, it was obvious to almost everyone that Prohibition was a failure. But initially, Prohibition was hugely popular. Most of the ills of society were blamed on alcohol, so nobody felt bad if drinkers conveniently died.

Probably the first time in history that people marched in favor of taxation Photo by Champlain Valley National Heritage Project

During the 1920s, the government intentionally poisoned alcohol supplies, killing more than 10,000 American citizens in the process. Sad thing is, people weren’t doing anything illegal by drinking; the law only stated you couldn’t manufacture, transport, or sell alcohol. You’d think Mr. or Mrs. Average American would be upset about this injustice…



Kathy Copeland Padden

is a music fanatic, classic film aficionado, and history buff surfing the End Times wave like a boss. Come along!