1948 October 1

Guilty of Speaking in the Park

 

Eric Hass, editor of The Weekly People, a left-wing paper, was arrested for speaking without a permit in Brooklyn, New York, on this day. He was found guilty three weeks later, on October 20th. Despite the prosecution, however, the assistant director of parks testified that the place where he spoke had long been a public forum and that no permit had ever been denied. This admission suggested that, as the Cold War was intensifying, the arrest of Haas was prompted by his left-wing political views. The ACLU planned to represent him in an appeal of his conviction.

The incident was characteristic of the arbitrary denial of freedom of speech and assembly to left-wing, labor, atheist, or anti-war speakers that prevailed from the time of World War I through the 1960s. On a number of occasions in the early 1920s, ACLU leaders were arrested for trying to read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. See, for example, March 23, 1920 (for attempting to read the Connecticut state constitution; October 12, 1920; and in the most famous incident, the famous novelist Upton Sinclair was arrested near Los Angeles on May 15, 1923 for attempting to read the Bill of Rights.

Learn more about freedom of speech and assembly: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/assembly

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

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