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De Jonge v. Oregon

Significance

De Jonge marked the first time the right of free assembly was made applicable to the states by means of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On 27 July 1934, Dirk De Jonge, a member of the Communist Party, participated in a party meeting in Portland, Oregon. The meeting had been called by the Communist Party to protest illegal raids on workers' halls and homes, as well as the shooting of striking longshoremen by Portland police. De Jonge spoke to a group, estimated to have been between 150 and 300 people, on these topics, afterward urging those present to recruit more members for the party and attempting to sell some Communist literature. While the meeting was still in progress, it was raided by the police, who seized some of the literature and took De Jonge and others who were conducting the meeting into custody. They were charged under the Oregon criminal syndicalism law, which outlawed participation in a meeting held under the auspices of the Communist Party.

At his trial De Jonge made a motion for acquittal, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to convict him under the statute. He then appealed the trial court's denial of his motion to the state supreme court, which upheld his conviction. He turned finally to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oregon's criminal syndicalism statute was just one of 20 such state laws passed between the years of 1917 and 1929 as part of an effort to outlaw the radical labor organization, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or "Wobblies." A large number of convictions under the syndicalism laws took place in the West, where the Wobblies were most active. During the Red Scare that followed World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of several of the criminal syndicalism laws. But as public alarm about Communist infiltration diminished and the power of the Wobblies faded, the attitude of the Court towards syndicalism also relaxed.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940De Jonge v. Oregon - Significance, Court Finds Freedom Of Assembly Protected From State Infringement