Why do you think the public were so distressed by the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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To a great extent, the public was outraged by the St. Valentine's Day Massacre because it showed the gangster lifestyle having profound social detriment.  For so long in the "Roaring '20s," the gangster enjoyed a level of public prestige.  Everyone knew the gangster was "bad," but his image was one that obscured all else.  The St. Valentine's Day Massacre brought this into sharp view.  The idea of the February cold in Chicago, seven men lined up against the wall and killed executioner style was so egregious that even the most diehard "flapper" and "big six" could not overlook it.   The shooters dressed up as city police officers and executed them with about seventy rounds of ammunition.  The violence in the city was highlighted by the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  The Chicago Tribune editorialized the massacre, speaking for a city that might have just had its fill with the gangster lifestyle:

These murders went out of the comprehension of a civilized city...The butchering of seven men by open daylight raises this question for Chicago: Is it helpless?

The time of the gangster was coming to an end.  The outrage sparked by the violence helped to cause Capone's ascension to the number one gangster, making him a prime target for the federal authorities.  The party that came to embody the 1920s was rapidly reaching its final point.  The bloodshed and terror that was a part of the 1920s St. Valentine's Day Massacre was a part of this process, helping to cause outrage and public awareness of the lawlessness that the time period helped to embrace and cultivate.

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