• Last updated on November 11, 2022

In this street oratory case, the Supreme Court tolerated a level of government control of speech that is no longer acceptable.

Chief Justice Fred M. VinsonVinson, Fred M.;Feiner v. New York[Feiner v. New York] wrote the opinion for the 6-3 majority over strong dissents from Justices Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas, and Sherman Minton. Irving Feiner, a college student, stood on a box making a speech to a racially and politically mixed audience of more than seventy people who had a strongly mixed reaction to the speech and seemed to become unruly. Feiner refused to stop even after requested to do so by a police officer and was arrested for violating a New York law making it a “breach of the peace” to use intentionally “abusive language.” Despite Feiner’s assertion of First Amendment protection, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction as necessary to stop a “clear and present danger to public safety.” Black’s strong dissent argued that Feiner was being punished for unpopular political views. Similar speech was judged to be under First Amendment protection in Brandenburg v. Ohio[case]Brandenburg v. Ohio[Brandenburg v. Ohio] (1969).Speech, freedom of;Feiner v. New York[Feiner v. New York]

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Categories: History