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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

In addition to the two controls over meetings in private halls and meetings in public places, Jersey City had, also an anti-leaflet ordinance to control the distribution of all sorts of printed matter. This was adopted in January, 1924, and enforced at least until the decision of the Supreme Court in the Georgia case of Lovell v. Griffin in 1937. (303 U.S. 444.) Even several days after that decision was handed down, Mrs. Grace Milgram, a resident of Jersey City, was arrested for distributing civil liberties leaflets and taken before a Captain Quaile. She testified that they `had a discussion concerning the distribution of leaflets, and I asked him whether he intended to continue to seize leaflets from leaflet distributors, and what he was going to do about the Supreme Court decision, and he told me, "We are enforcing the Jersey City ordinance, not the Constitution." With a warning he let me go.' (Hague v. C.I.O., Transcript, pp. 421-422. Still later the police confiscated leaflets being distributed by Joseph Zarella and William Callahan of The Catholic Worker, but they would make no arrests. Mayor Hague was confronted with this evidence when he was on the stand in Newark:

Q. Do you know that subsequent to the decision in the Griffin case the police of Jersey City gathered circulars, took them from the hands of persons who were trying to distribute them A. Well, it all depends just exactly what the circumstances were. The police of Jersey City must assume that if there is disorder and there is any danger of violence or uprising and the circulars are a circular that would offend the people of Jersey City, why, of course, naturally they would feel it was their duty to remove the circulars.
He was then shown an unorthodox Catholic circular and asked if there should have been objection to its distribution.
A. Well, I would say there is an objection to that; that is not a proper circular to distribute amongst a community that is law-abiding; that is a religious circular.

Q. You think a religious circular should not be distributed?
A. No, I do not. I think they ought to keep out.

Q. And if they are –
A. They shouldn't come in there with any purpose of aggravating the peace and quietness of the city. What right did that circular have in Jersey City?

Q. I am not on the stand, sir. Ibid., pp. 1035-1036

While the Jersey City authorities soon announced that they were going to enforce the Constitution, the distributors of handbills may be controlled in other ways. They may be locked up as vagrants or simply locked up for a few hours or overnight without a charge. Most persons who resort to leaflets as a means of influencing public opinion have but little economic security; if they are not on relief or on W.P.A. themselves they have friends or relatives who are, and they do not even need a reminder of what can be done to them if they `get out of line.' The organization, moreover, can reward its friends and punish its enemies even in private employment.


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