My name is Yetta Stromberg. I was only 19 years old when the people of this community did me wrong.
You see, all I was in 1929 was a summer teacher at the Pioneer Summer Camp at the McCready Ranch in what you know as today’s El Dorado Ranch Park just up Oak Glen Road a piece.
We ran an youth camp for working class children which was maintained by a number of different groups and organizations, some of which were either openly Communist or had expressed sympathy for the Communist Party’s goals. These groups and organizations were base in the Los Angeles area.
I was a member of the Young Community League, an international organization affiliated with the Communist Party.
What I did is teach and take part in a daily ceremony at the camp where I directed and supervised the youth campers in raising a red flag and in pledging allegiance to “the workers red flag” and to the cause for which it stands, one aim throughout our lives and freedom for the working class.
I also owned a number of books and other printed materials advocating violence and armed uprisings.
California had a state law that was enacted in 1919 that prohibited the public display of a red flag, the sissies.
Well, you see, there was the Better American Federation, a group with the goal to clear the State of California from what they deemed to be dangerous dissent. BAF targeted our camp in 1929. It seems they found out about us when your local predecessors had the gall to complain about our flying the red flag. You all seem to be a bunch of crybabies. Some people wouldn’t come out to the North Bench because of it they said.
Well, the Better American Federation persuaded the local sheriff to search our Pioneer Summer Camp and they did in August – on three occasions – on Thursday about 6 p.m. when they showed up with the health office, immigration service, the district attorney. We had about 40 children on site with eight adults. We were all dressed in swim suits. Some the children talked a bit, but that was about it. Alright, it was an out-door camp, but the sanitary conditions were not all that good. The five shower baths were criticized because they were in plain view of the other camp activities.
They also found the two red flags, one with the hammer and sickle.
On Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.n. They searched and found our red flag and arrested me for heaven’s sake, along with other employees. They also found the books and printed materials advocating violence and armed uprisings. That incited them a bit, even though I told them that none of those materials were used in my teaching.
Six of our women and one man (Bella Mintz, Esther Karpeliff, Isadore Berkowitz, Sara Berkowitz, Jennie Wolfson, Emma Schneidermann, Catherine Hrusback, Sara Rabkin and I were arrested and charged with felony raising of using a red flag as a symbol of opposition to organized government. A misdemeanor charge of operation a camp without a permit was added. The eight of us were held under $1,000 bail each. They dragged me down to San Bernardino. We were released when a Los Angeles bonding company bailed us out.
The trial was held in San Bernardino and is said to have been the first prosecution of its kind in California. The trial lasted six days. Harold Rouse from Yucaipa had filed the complaint with Judge Potter. Attorney Leo Gallagher of Los Angeles represented us defendants. We were all convicted.
We appealed the case to the California Supreme Court. It was Case #584 and was held on 1931. The case named Section 403a of the state penal code. I was devastated when I was the only one convicted on the first count. The conspiracy count was dropped. The case People versus Mintz was reversed for the other defendants. The testimony she I was the official communist representative. California law made it a felony for anyone to display a red flag, banner or badge in a public place.
I, with some help, appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. And low and behold, I was saved. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a 1919 California statute banning red flags was unconstitutional because it violated the First and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution. This decision is considered a landmark in the history of the First Amendment constitutional law as it was one of the first cases where the Court extended the 14th Amendment, in this case the symbolic freedom of speech or expressive conduct from state infringement.
So there – all of you – because of the horrible activities that happened here to ne – American freedoms of speech and expression were defined for the nation and this state.
The local Rotary proposes that the city build a monument at the site of our camp with an American flag with steps to a platform where people can speak and express themselves. With freedom.