Case Study 1
Permits and demonstrations

A group of National Socialist Party of America members decided to hold a demonstration in a city with a large number of Jewish residents, many of whom survived the Holocaust. The party members wanted to display the swastika, a symbol of Nazi beliefs that for many people represents the Holocaust itself. The citizens of the city were not only deeply offended by the Nazis’ beliefs but feared that violence would result if the National Socialist Party members were allowed to parade through their streets in uniform and distribute materials “inciting and promoting hatred against Jews … .” The city government passed several ordinances regulating public demonstrations. These ordinances required the organizers of any parade or assembly that involved more than 50 persons to obtain insurance coverage. The ordinances also gave the city council the authority to deny a permit for a demonstration if that demonstration might result in disorder. The council also banned demonstrations by members of groups wearing military-style uniforms, as well as all demonstrations that “incite violence, hatred, abuse, or hostility toward a person or group of persons by reasons or reference to religious, racial, ethnic, national, or religious affiliation.” The National Socialist Party of America then sued, declaring the ordinances unconstitutionally interfered with their rights to free speech.
  • Is this speech protected?
  • If not, what harm might occur as a result of the speech?
  • What value or right is conflicting with free speech in this case?
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