Subversive Influences

House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)

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Source: Congress. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Subversive Influences in Riots, Looting, and Burning. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1967, 1968. Pt. 3: Los Angeles - Watts (November 28, 29, 30, 1967). Congress. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Subversive Influences in Riots, Looting, and Burning. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1967, 1968.
Pt. 3: Los Angeles - Watts (November 28, 29, 30, 1967).

SuDoc No.: Y4.Un1/2:R47/pt.3
Date(s) of Hearings: November 28, 29, and 30, 1967
Congress and Session: 90th - 1st
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Part three of the HUAC hearings concentrated on the 1965 Los Angeles–Watts riot. First to testify was James Harris of the Los Angeles district attorney's office. His testimony primarily focuses on the influence of the Communist Party U.S.A. (Marxist-Leninist) on the Watts riot. Among the stated reasons for the riot put forth by the Communist Party U.S.A. was the imperialist war in Vietnam, police brutality, and the lack of economic assistance to the poorer areas of the country. One leaflet distributed at a May Day rally in Watts told readers, "Don't fight for your masters so that he can have more wage slaves... They use racism as a cover for their policies of colonizing [sic] the Negro Nation in the South (the 'Black Belt') and Puerto Rico and their semi-colonies – Mexico, the Phillipines [sic], South Korea, South Vietnam, etc."

Clayton Anderson, a lieutenant in the district attorney's bureau of investigation, testified about an organization called Freedom Now, which was a joint venture between the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Using the slogan "Freedom Now - Withdrawal Now" the Freedom Now organization planned a demonstration for February 12, 1966 (to coincide with Abraham Lincoln's birthday and thus called the "Lincoln Day Rally"). Speakers were to include John Lewis, then National Chairman of SNCC. Introduced into the record were a flyer, a press release and a newspaper clipping that indicate that a major reason for the demonstration was the refusal of the Georgia legislature to seat Julian Bond, a member of SNCC, who had endorsed the SNCC anti-Vietnam war statement. The general theme running through all of these publications is the hypocrisy of a government that was sending African-American men to a foreign country to kill and subjugate another group of color when basic necessities were not being met at home in the struggle for civil rights. As one put in a pamphlet for the Freedom Now organization, "The United States flag waves in the Vietnamese winds as pompously as Governor Wallace's Confederate flag waves in the storm winds over [the] Alabama State Capitol."

Another possible instigation of the Watts riot, according to HUAC, was the arrest of John Harris. John Harris, a member of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) was arrested when he distributed leaflets outside of a courthouse in protest of a police brutality case. Harris was charged with violating California's "Criminal Syndicalist" law which was designed for the handling of the labor movement and had not been used since 1937. The law stated that it was illegal to "effect political change" by criminal means. It was also put forth in literature from the PLP that Harris was also arrested because "he opposes the U.S. Government's genocidal war in Vietnam and has urged his Black brothers not to fight for the imperialist enemy."

HUAC investigator William Wheeler testified about several groups in the Watts area that were active during the post riot phase. Several of these groups distributed pamphlets and flyers (entered into the record) that made the connection between the riot and the war in Vietnam. The Black Anti-Draft Union issued one such flyer before a planned visit to Los Angeles by President Johnson stating, "Tell it to LBJ, HELL NO...Blacks won't go!!" The Progressive Labor Party also issued several flyers including the one seen on the top of this page. Variations of this poster were also distributed in San Francisco. Representative William Tuck of Virginia, who sat on the House Un-American Activities Committee had this to say at the end of part three of testimony,

"This hearing has not proved that the Watts riot of August 1965 was instigated by the Communists. The record indicates that most of this literature was distributed after the riot in an apparent attempt to capitalize on it and incite further violence. Some of it, however, was distributed prior to the riot. To have engaged in this activity in disturbing the community after the Watts riot is even worse than it was before the riot."
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