RED BOYLE HEIGHTS: Cooperative Center Surveillance Photos

Photo of a bound copy of the report by the Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States, published in 1930. This volume contains law enforcement testimony and surveillance photos of the Cooperative Center in Boyle Heights provided to the committee during a hearing held in Los Angeles in October, 1930. Photos by blog contributor.

This blog post will primarily feature Los Angeles Police Department surveillance photos of the communist-run Cooperative Center at 2708 Brooklyn Avenue (now Cesar Chavez Avenue) in Boyle Heights. 

But first, a little background on these photos. In 1930, Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr. (R-New York) chaired a congressional committee called the Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States, holding committee hearings in several cities to investigate communist propaganda. On October 8th the committee was in Los Angeles to hear testimony from local anti-communist stalwarts, including LAPD Captain William Hynes, head of the department’s Red Squad unit. Hynes testified about the local communist movement and the activities of the Cooperative Center in Boyle Heights, providing a collection of documents, including letters, pamphlets, and flyers the Red Squad had confiscated while conducting raids and street arrests.

Surveillance photos of the Cooperative Center were also submitted by Lt. Hynes to the Fish Committee. All the photos were taken on the same day—Sunday, September 23, 1928. All nineteen photos are presented here just as they were published in the committee’s final report, with comments by the LAPD surveillance team underneath each photo.

I should note here that the Fish Committee’s 1930 report is a public document, although, in my experience, I’ve not seen these photos published or posted anywhere beyond the pages of the committee’s original report, so they’ve been little seen or shared by the public until now. The document is available for purchase through commercial online booksellers (although an original 1930 bound copy like the one shown above might be difficult to come by), but with some sleuthing, the entire document might be found online.

Below are just a few opening paragraphs of the LAPD’s lengthy report (it included the entire text of Foster’s speech) describing what the surveillance team witnessed during the entire day.  

Below are the LAPD surveillance photos of the Cooperative Center that are published in the committee report.

The building that formerly housed the Cooperative Center, its construction spearheaded by local communists beginning in 1924, still stands today. After some renovation, the second floor is now home to a bustling live music venue for up-and-coming artists that is once again known as The Paramount. The second floor houses a pizzeria establishment called, the Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co.

The next post will look at how, during the years of the Great Depression, the leftist movement in Boyle Heights, centered around the Cooperative Center, took their demands for labor reform, free speech, and government assistance for the poor and unemployed to the Olvera Street-adjacent Plaza area in downtown Los Angeles. And the violent suppression they endured.