Flashback Fridays: Communists in Echo Park!

I've only found two pictures of Manewitz and they are both slightly creepy.

Big news! A suspected communist was arrested at his apartment at 1420 Echo Park Ave. and charged with “teaching and advocating overthrow of the U.S. government by violence”… on September 17, 1952.

Echo Park was home to a lot of communists and socialists during the couple of decades after the first Red Scare (in the 1920’s) and before the second Red Scare (in the 1950’s). However, it’s difficult to find information on the group’s activities as it is (understandably) not widely published. Most of the information we have are personal accounts and newspaper articles. That’s where the handy-dandy Los Angeles Times archive at the L.A. Public Library comes in!

I found an interesting little nugget of an article about a man named Robert Manewitz who was picked up by the FBI at his apartment in Echo Park. A long-time Communist Party member and the son of Russian immigrants, Manewitz first started organizing laborers and protests in the Midwest in the 1930’s. According to the article, he came to Los Angeles from Missouri in order to “take over the duties of some of California Communist Party leaders who had been arrested on similar charges of Smith Act violations.”

The Smith Act is a statute that basically says it’s illegal to do or say anything that could be seen as an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government. And you wanna know the really fun part? Although most of the cases under it were thrown out as unconstitutional, it’s still on the books today.

And what did Manewitz say to the press? “He refused to comment on the charges against him, saying only: ‘I don’t know what it is all about.'” Good man.

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