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When Arthur Terminiello delivered a speech in an auditorium in Chicago, the auditorium was filled to capacity with over eight hundred people. Outside of the speech, almost one thousand people gathered to protest the speech. Although police were assigned there to maintain order, they could not prevent several disturbances. In his speech, Terminiello condemned the conduct of the crowd outside and criticized various political and racial groups whose activities he denounced as harmful to the nation’s welfare. Terminiello was found guilty of disorderly conduct under a Chicago city ordinance prohibiting “breach[es] of the peace” and subsequently fined.
A student’s inflammatory speech on a public sidewalk, which argued for violent revolution by black Americans and against President Truman, led to restlessness among the crowd and “at least one threat of violence.” Police officers asked the student to stop speaking three times, and after his third refusal, arrested him for disorderly conduct.
This is a simple case. Petitioners, accompanied by Chicago police and an assistant city attorney, marched in a peaceful and orderly procession from city hall to the mayor's residence to press their claims for desegregation of the public schools. Having promised to cease singing at 8:30 p. m., the marchers did so. Although petitioners and the other demonstrators continued to march in a completely lawful fashion, the onlookers became unruly as the number of bystanders increased. *112 Chicago police, to prevent what they regarded as an impending civil disorder, demanded that the demonstrators, upon pain of arrest, disperse. When this command was not obeyed, petitioners were arrested for disorderly conduct.