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Stromberg v. California

Anarchistic Legislation: Red Flag Laws

Following the end of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in November of 1917, which closely coincided with the end of World War I, the United States began to worry about Communist activities within its borders. In 1919 on the first day of May, the communist labor day called May Day, American radicals in several Northeast cities staged rallies and conducted Red flag parades. The term red was synonymous with Communist and red flags symbolized rebellious discontent and revolution. In reaction, public sentiment against radicalism rose to a fever pitch. The general feeling was the Red flag would have to go for democracy to survive. To prevent reoccurrences of Red flag demonstrations, 32 states passed Red flag laws.

In California, state law established a felony crime to display a red flag or certain other articles as a symbol of opposition to organized government, as a stimulus to anarchistic (violent government overthrow) action, or as an aid to propaganda.

Intent on suppressing dissent, California in particular vigorously arrested and prosecuted individuals. Between 1919 and 1921, 500 persons were arrested and 264 convicted. The state frequently targeted socialists, Communist Labor party members, and the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor union.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Stromberg v. California - Significance, Court Overturns Conviction Under "red Flag Law", Anarchistic Legislation: Red Flag Laws