This Week in People’s History, August 22 – 28
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Cartoon of a Wanted Poster for Jesus, "Wanted for Sedition"

August 22, 1918 (105 years ago). Jacob Abrams and three others are arrested for violating the Espionage Act by distributing anti-war leaflets in Manhattan during World War 1. The arrest is one of many hundreds that occur during 1917-1921 in which the alleged offense is the publication of anti-war literature or simply expressing opposition to the war in a speech (or even a conversation). In 1919 the Supreme Court upholds Abrams conviction by a 7-2 vote, just as it did in every one of the many similar cases it decided. The 1919 decision is famous because the two dissenting justices, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis publish a dissent arguing that the convictions should be reversed because the First Amendment's protection of political speech and writing is crucial in a democratic society, a position that became the position of the court's majority many, many years later.…

August 23, 1968 (55 years ago). At Fort Hood, Texas, forty-three Black GIs are arrested, and will soon be court-martialed, when they stage a non-violent sit-in to protest plans to deploy them for riot-control duty outside the hotly contested Democratic Convention in Chicago, which is the site of enormous demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Most of the resulting court-martials resulted in sentences of three to six months hard labor, forfeiture of pay and reduction in rank.

August 24, 1968 (55 years ago). Four days after troops and tanks from the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary invaded Czechoslovakia in order to halt the political liberalization known as the Prague Spring, the French government publishes a pointed reminder that no matter what county does it, an invasion is an invasion. Referring to Czechoslovakia, the French statement says that a friendly nation had been "invaded and is being occupied against her will."  The statement continues "this, in the eyes of the French government, is to turn one's back to peace," adding "we are saying this now as we said it three years ago on the occasion of the affair of the Dominican Republic" referring to the uninvited U.S. invasion to prevent a left-wing government from coming to power in April 1964. The French criticism is not taken kindly in Washington.…

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August 25, 1923 (100 years ago). The Ku Klux Klan meets its match when some four thousand robed and hooded Klansmen attempt, unsuccessfully, to parade by torchlight through Carnegie, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh.
    At the time, the Klan was in the midst of  a great resurgence in size and influence. For example, it was conducting a reign of terror in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where martial law had been declared in an effort to protect the city's Black population. It had recently held a gathering of twelve thousand Klansmen in New Brunswick, NJ, 25 miles from New York City, and it had held many large meetings throughout New York State to protest the state's new anti-Klan legislation. 
    But the Klan's growth had given rise to organized opposition by those who rejected its racist and xenophobic politics. When Klansmen tried to march through Carnegie, they were confronted by a phalanx of hundreds of citizens blocking Main Street. During the resulting melee, one Klansman is shot dead. The rest, subjected to a hail of bricks and lumps of coal, were are literally run out of town. Five days later the citizens of Perth Amboy, NJ, did the same thing. 

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August 26, 1983 (40 years ago). A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., unanimously rules that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had egregiously failed to carry out its legal responsibility to protect children from the poisonous effects of lead-based paint. 
    In a scathing decision, the court states that under a 1973 law -- the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Act -- HUD is required to ''establish procedures to eliminate as far as practicable the hazards of lead-based paint poisoning'' in any properties owned or subsidized by the federal Government, which included virtually all public housing.
    The court rules that HUD had spent a decade neglecting to do what the law required. HUD had ignored its Congressionally imposed mandate and decided to apply a cost-benefit analysis to its obligation, a policy for which there was no legal justification.
    As the decision explains, "Congress commanded that if it is 'practicable' to eliminate an immediate hazard, that hazard must be eliminated. The statute admits of no exceptions to the required elimination procedures on the basis of the degree of practicability. Neither Congress's concern about the cost of the elimination program nor Congressional silence in the face of the department's interpretation of the statute can overcome the clear statutory directive."
    HUD was totally opposed to the court's decision, which would have been very expensive to comply with, but it did not take the obvious step of making an appeal to the Supreme Court, because it was clear such an appeal would not stand a chance.
    Sadly, clear Congressional mandates and sharply worded Appeals Courts' decisions are not enough to actually remove lead paint.  Follow the link to read how little has changed in 40 years.…

August 27, 1928 (95 years ago). At a meeting in Paris, fifteen nations, including the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, sign the "General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy," which is better known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Under the terms of the treaty, the signatories resolve to not use war to settle "disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them." The treaty, which lacked any enforcement mechanism, could not prevent World War 2, but when that war was over the treaty was the legal basis for prosecuting (and convicting) the leadership of Germany and Japan for committing crimes against peace. In addition, the treaty established the international norm that the threat or use of military force, as well as any territorial acquisitions resulting from the use of force are unlawful, which was, strange as it might seem, a brand-new idea.…

August 28, 1963 (60 years ago). Organized by the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, the Negro American Labor Organization, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League, at least 250,000 demonstrators join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to protest the subjugation of African Americans to Jim Crow segregation and laws, low wages and a disproportionate level of high unemployment, and other forms of legal, economic, and social inequality. The march ends at the Lincoln Monument, where the demonstators listen to some unforgetable oratory, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

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