First Amendment Library:
William M. Kunstler

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381 U.S. 741 (1965) CAMERON ET AL. v. JOHNSON, GOVERNOR OF MISSISSIPPI, ET AL. No. 587, Misc. Supreme Court of United States. Decided June 7, 1965. APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI. Arthur Kinoy, William M. Kunstler, Benjamin E. Smith, Bruce C. Waltzer, Melvin Wulf and Morton Stavis… Read more

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During the 1984 Republican National Convention, respondent Gregory Lee Johnson participated in a political demonstration to protest the policies of the Reagan administration and some Dallas-based corporations. After a march through the city streets, Johnson burned an American flag while protesters chanted. No one was physically injured or threatened with injury, although several witnesses were offended by the flag burning. Johnson was convicted of desecration of a venerated object in violation of a Texas statute, and a state court of appeals affirmed. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, holding that the state, consistent with the First Amendment, could not punish Johnson for burning the flag in these circumstances.

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Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989 after the Supreme Court overturned a Texas statute criminalizing the knowingly offensive destruction American flag in Texas v. Johnson. The Flag Protection Act criminalized "knowingly" mutilating, defacing, physically defiling, burning, or tampling upon an American flag. The Supreme Court found the Flag Protection Act to be unconstitutional. Although it did not contain a content-based limitation like the Texas statute did, the Government's interest in protecting the "physical integrity" of the flag in order to preserve its symbolism is related to the suppression of free expression and violates the First Amendment.

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Respondent Rock Against Racism (RAR), furnishing its own sound equipment and technicians, has sponsored yearly programs of rock music at the Naumberg Acoustic Bandshell in New York City's Central Park. The city received numerous complaints about excessive noise at RAR's concerts. Rejecting various other solutions to the excessive noise and inadequate amplification problems, the city adopted a Use Guideline for the bandshell which specified that the city would furnish high quality sound equipment and retain an independent, experienced sound technician for all performances. After the city implemented this guideline, RAR amended a preexisting District Court complaint against the city to seek damages and a declaratory judgment striking down the guideline as facially invalid under the First Amendment.

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