Dissent, Labor: 1919

California legislature passes the Criminal Syndicalism Act, outlawing advocacy of force or violence for political change or a change of industrial ownership. Because the law is broad and vague, it is used against non-violent labor organizers and political radicals.

Dissent: 1920

Socially prominent reformer Charlotte Anita Whitney is convicted of violating the Criminal Syndicalism Act because she is a member of the Communist Labor Party.

Dissent, Labor: 1923

SinclairSinclairDuring the course of a strike by longshoremen at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, police and hired goons attack strikers and their supporters who are protesting bad working conditions, low wages, and the imprisonment of union leaders under the Criminal Syndicalism Act. Police prohibit strikers from holding public meetings. At a rally on Liberty Hill in support of the strikers, author Upton Sinclair is arrested for violating the Criminal Syndicalism Act by reading the U.S. Constitution. Sinclair helps found the ACLU of Southern California.

Dissent: 1925

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Charlotte Anita Whitney’s conviction and the constitutionality of California’s criminal syndicalism law.

Dissent: 1927

Governor Clement Young pardons Charlotte Anita Whitney, who comments “How can I be pardoned when I’ve done nothing wrong?”

Los Angeles Police Chief James Davis names William “Red” Hynes to head the department’s “Red Squad,” which for the following 10 years spies on, harasses, censors, and physically assaults the city’s leftist political radicals.

Dissent: 1931

In Stromberg v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the conviction of Yetta Stromberg, who was convicted of violating California’s law banning the display of red flags. This is the first Supreme Court decision striking down a state law because it restricted an individual’s right to freedom of expression.

Dissent: 1933

A municipal court judge rules that the Los Angeles Police Department cannot interfere with meetings of political groups with which it disagrees.

Dissent: 1935

Vigilantes in Santa Rosa tar and feather two men who were organizing apple pickers in Sonoma County.

Dissent: 1938

Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw is recalled for corruption. Newly-elected mayor Fletcher Bowron disbands the “Red Squad.”

Congress establishes the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Dissent: 1947

President Harry Truman orders loyalty oaths for government employees.

HUAC subpoenas ten Hollywood screenwriters and directors, who invoke their First Amendment rights and refuse to testify about their political beliefs and those of others. The men become known as the “Hollywood Ten.”

See a film profiling several of the Hollywood Ten:

Hollywood studio executives announce that the Hollywood Ten will be fired. The studios create a blacklist of writers, directors and performers whom the studios will not hire because of their suspected political beliefs.

County of Los Angeles requires its 20,000 employees to sign affidavits that they do not advocate the overthrow of the government by violence and do not have any affiliation with approximately 140 allegedly communist organizations. In the following year, cities throughout California pass similar requirements.

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