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OUR DAILY BREAD
Radio Department of the Los Angeles CIO Council
Philip M. Connelly, Secretary

5851 S. Avalon Blvd. Los Angeles 3, Calif. Adams 3321

Friday, Feb. 18, 1944

Albee Slade
Commentator

KPAS
1110 on the dial
Mon. thru Fri.
7:15-7:30 P.M.

ANNCR

Every night Monday through Friday, the Los Angeles CIO Council presents "Our Daily Bread" — the labor newspaper of the air. And here is your editor — Albee Slade.


SLADE

Thank you, Keith Aaron. This is Albee Slade speaking to you directly from the CIO Building in Los Angeles.

When I speak of the "Sleepy Lagoon Murder Case" it may sound to some of you like the title of the newest vehicle for Bela Logosi's or Boris Karloff's scare talents. But it is not.

I know many of you are familiar with the shame of the Sleepy Lagoon Case. But, for those of you who are not acquainted with this outrageous miscarriage of justice in California, as a result of which twelve Mexican youths are serving long prison sentences apparently solely for the "crime" of being Mexicans. Permit me to give you the facts.

About a year ago last August, some Mexican boys and girls attended a party at a farm house on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It was near a small body of water known in the romantic language of the southland as the "Sleepy Lagoon". A brawl developed at the party and several people left in a huff. Next morning, Jose Diaz, one of the men who had attended the party was found unconscious in the road nearby. He died in the hospital. Shortly afterwards, a harrassed police driven frantic by Hearst propaganda arrested 22 boys who had allegedly tried to crash the party.

In one of the most outrageous caricatures of court procedure, the 22 boys were tried together. Five were acquitted, five got six months in jail, nine got five years to life and three were sentenced to life imprisonment. To say the least, the trial was conducted without a trace of actual evidence that any crime had been committed at all. The dead man might have been run over accidentally by an auto. He might have had a bit too much to drink, fallen and struck his head against the stone.

And, even if we assume that murder had been committed, not one shred of evidence was produced linking any of these 17 Mexican boys with the crime.

The victim might have been killed by a complete stranger. He might have been killed by any other of the people who had attended the party. And, even if he had been killed by one of the 17 convicted, there was no evidence which could possibly be construed to connect any of the other 16 with the crime.

This case has become as significant as the infamous Sacco and Vanzetti and Scottsboro Cases. All three represent injustice and persecution resulting from blind hysteria and prejudice.


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A group of California citizens organized into the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee now nation-wide in scope has investigated the case carefully. The Committee after serious and considered judgement has made the following charges: That the defendants were tried in the midst of bitter and unjustified anti-Mexican hostility — hostility which was most recently exemplified by the "Zoot-suit" riots.

That the defendants were unmercifully beaten by the police and that "confessions" were extorted from them by torture.

That the presiding judge referred to the defendants in court as "A gang", and drew a parallel with notorious Chicago gangs of prohibition days. But the defendants were not allowed to consult their counsel during the trial or even during recess.

That in order to make them look as disreputable as possible in court, the defendants were not allowed to cut their hair or to change their clothes.

That the trial was conducted on a basis of the Hitlerian ideas of race superiority. A Mr. E. D. Ayres, of the Foreign Relations Bureau of the Sheriff's Office, filed a statement embracing the Nazi doctrine of Ayrian supremacy as snugly as any I've ever seen.

Listen to this bit of pseudo scientific Nazi nonsense — I quote Mr. Ayres. "Let us view some of the biological basis — in fact, as a main basis to work from. Although wildcats and domestic cats are of the same family, they have certain biological characteristics so different that while one may be domesticated, the other would have to be caged to be kept in captivity, and there is practically as much difference between races of man as so aptly recognized by Rudyard Kipling when he said when writing of the Orientals, "East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet", which gives us an insight into the present problem because Indians from Alaska to Patagonia are evidentally Oriental in background or at least show many of the Oriental characteristics especially in their utter disregard for the value of life".

And mind you, this testimony was presented as the basis for the conviction of 17 Mexican lads, aged 16-21. The prosecuting attorney argued in effect, that all Mexicans are cowards and do not fight fairly. The District Attorney, after refusing to permit the boys to get their hair cut, called attention in court to their disreputable appearance which he associated with their race.

Twelve of the defendants are now serving their terms in San Quentin. Matt Weinstock, in his informative and whimsical column in the Daily News recently called his reader's attention to the injustice of the case and the excellent records these boys had made since they became inmates of the institution. Only one of them, at the time of the trial was as old as 21.

These boys are actually clean-cut, loyal American kids who have become the innocent victims of race prejudice. I have a few excerpts from letter written by two of these boys which I would like to read to you. Listen to them carefully and judge for yourself these words could have been written by hardened, premeditative congenital criminals. The first was written by Manuel Reyes from San Quentin several months after he had been there. He was 17 years old when he was convicted of second degree murder with penalty of from five years to life in prison. This letter was dated, April 28, 1943......" glad to know that you are letting the people know that there is prejudice against Mexicans and how the police treated us when we were arrested just because we're Mexicans. But being born a Mexican is something we had no control over but we are proud no matter what people think. We are proud to be Mexican-American boys. I joined the Navy in July.


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They didn't turn me down because I was a Mexican because we're needed to fight this war. I was told to return back to the Navy station to take my pledge but unfortunately I was arrested for this crime which I didn't have anything to do with or know of. When we were arrested, we were treated as if we were German spies or Japs. They didn't figure we were Americans just like anybody else that is born in this country.

Well, anyway, if I didn't get to join the Navy to do my part in this war, I'm still doing my part for my country behind these walls. I am buying defense stamps and volunteering to do some more work....."

And here is part of a letter written by the supposed bloody leader of this alleged gang. He is twenty-year old Henry Leyvas who is serving a life sentence at San Quentin. This letter was written in August, 1943.

..... "I read the pamphlet on the Sleepy Lagoon Case published by the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee and I've also loaned it to other persons and guards and after they read it, I asked them for their honest opinion of what the outcome will be. Just think — they all tell me I'll be coming home before I know it. Even some of the guards told me that! Isn't that swell! As you already know, I had lost all faith before and now since reading the pamphlet, I've gotten my faith back and now I really know that there are plenty of nice people that are trying their best to see us get a fair trial. And that's all I ask — to get a fair trial.

I heard my brother left for the Army already. In a way I feel blue for not having seen him before he left but then I'm also glad to know that he wanted to go to fight for his country and I know now that if I'm lucky enough to get out of here, I will also do the same because now I can see that there is really plenty to fight for and this is also my country, right?" Signed, Henry Leyvas.

Now, wouldn't you agree that these words could have been written by one of your own boys — or by the kid next door whom you sometimes think is a nuisance because he walks across your newly planted flower bed who is out there fighting today — maybe giving his life for your right to plant that flower bed the way you want?

I know that there were probably some patriotic citizens in Los Angeles who innocently participated in this affair. I'm sure they consider themselves good Americans who are loyally supporting the war effort. In fact, however, they have done the war effort serious harm — far greater harm in fact than can be offset by their purchases of war bonds and other patriotic activities. The persecution of these Mexican boys has given the Axis radio as juicy a bit of Anti-American propaganda as they have ever had — and they have used it skillfully. This case threatens to impair United States relations with the people of Mexico and their government — indeed with all Latin-American nations at a time when maximum unity and cooperation is essential.

As I have indicated, a Defense Committee has been organized by many nationally known men and women under the chairmanship of Carey McWilliams. This Defense Committee is trying to see that justice is done. It is very short of funds so necessary to successfully carry out the campaign to give these boys a new lease on life. Contributions, no matter how small, would be welcome and put to immediate use. They may be sent to: Carey McWilliams, National Chairman, 902 Spring Arcade Building, Los Angeles 13.

Well, I see our time is up, so until Monday night at 7:15, this is your Los Angeles CIO Council reporter, Albee Slade saying goodnight until then and thanks for listening.


Material in this script may be quoted or reproduced.