Roger Baldwin’s Conviction Overturned by New Jersey High Court
The high court of New Jersey on this day overturned the conviction of ACLU leader Roger Baldwin for his role in a demonstration in support of a silk workers’ strike in Patterson, New Jersey (see December 17, 1924). Baldwin had been convicted of unlawful assembly for leading a parade in support of the strikers. In reversing the conviction of Baldwin and eight others, the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals found “an utter absence” of evidence that Baldwin’s actions had been unlawful. Baldwin had been facing a six-month jail sentence if his conviction had been upheld.
The decision was remarkable in the context of the 1920s, when both police and courts across the country were almost universally hostile to pro-labor demonstrations. The ACLU often held demonstrations, where people attempted to read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights to dramatize the denial of First Amendment rights, and were immediately arrested. See, for example, March 23, 1920; October 12, 1920; March 17, 1923; and May 15, 1923.
Learn more about Roger Baldwin and the ACLU in the 1920s: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)