Legal Principle at Issue
Does a California statute that makes the display of a red flag as a statement of "opposition to organized government" violate the First & Fourteenth Amendments?
The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that because the verdict did not specify what clause it was based on, the conviction could not be upheld if any of the statute’s three purposes was unconstitutional. The Court ruled that the first part of the statute prohibiting the display of the flag as a sign of opposition to organized government was unconstitutional.
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Yetta Stromberg was convicted of a California statute that criminalized displaying a red flag in any public place “as a sign, symbol or emblem of opposition to organized government or as an invitation or stimulus to anarchistic action or as an aid to propaganda that is of a seditious character.” The statute made the crime a felony. The trial court held that Stromberg should be convicted if Stromberg displayed the flag for any of the reasons specified in the statute. The California District Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. Stromberg challenged the statute on Fourteenth Amendment grounds.
Importance of Case
In ruling that prohibiting the display of a flag as a sign of opposition to organized government was unconstitutional the Court noted that such a clause could be construed to encroach on the right to peacefully protest.