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CHAPTER III

STATE LAWS ABRIDGING CIVIL LIBERTIES

Much of the recent suppressive legislation in the United States is in the form of state laws. The se laws fall into the general classes of red flag laws, criminal syndicalism, and criminal anarchy or sedition laws. The majority of these laws came, not with the war, but as an aftermath. That this surprising legislation was due to no real danger to the common welfare is shown by the fact that of the 91 laws passed by the close of 1921, 58 were passed in the legislative year of 1919, a year after the close of the war. This formidable array of legal restriction may be attributed to the red hysteria which passed over the country immediately following the war. It has already been noted that the enactment of these state statutes began with the New York and New Jersey laws of 1902, and that the progress of the repression was shown by the Washington statute of 1909 and the Massachusetts red flag law of 1913. Thirty-four states have enacted statutes

of this sort declaring them to be emergency statutes, but the emergency appears to have become permanent.

These laws were

vigorously enforced until as late as 1922 when a drop in

convictions and prosecutions became apparent.

The Red Flag Laws

Twenty-five states had adopted red flag laws up to 1

the close of 1921. The New York red flag law makes it a

1. N. Y. Laws, 1919, c. 409.

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misdemeanor to display the red banner "in any public assembly or parade as a symbol or emblem of any organization or association, or in furtherance of any political, social, or economic principle, doctrine, or propaganda". Other states, being more careful about its display sub rosa, forbid its display anywhere. Some states even guard against the adoption of a different colored flag, or the wearing of red neckties or buttons, by punishing the use of any color, or any emblem if it is "distinctive of bolshevism, anarchism, or radical socialism". Washington guards against any emblem "suggestive of any organized or unorganized group of persons who by the ir rules, creeds, purposes, practices, or efforts, espouse any theory or principle antagonistic to or subversive of the constitution or its mandates. In West Virginia imprisonment for a year, and for the second offense five years, may be imposed for the possession of any red or black flag, or the display of "any emblem of any nature whatever indicating sympathy or support of ideals, institutions, or forms of government, hostile, inimical, or antagonistic to the form or spirit of the constitution, laws, ideals, and institutions of this state or 4 of the United States".

3

Such laws as these are patently infringements of
An exceedingly wide range of ordinary and

civil liberties.

harmless conduct is brought under them and made punishable. Furthermore this conduct is made criminal on the basis of bad intention, which is punishing men for their thoughts. A conviction thus rests upon what the jury thinks is going on

inside the head of the accused.

2. Kansas, Laws, 1919 c. 184.
3. Washington, Laws, 1919 c. 181.

Again, in view of the fact

4. West Virginia, Laws, 1918 c. 24.

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