Defendant addressed a crowd of people, white and Negro, on a public sidewalk for the purpose of urging them to attend a certain meeting. During the course of his speech he "'called Mayor Costello [of Syracuse] a champaign [sic] sipping bum and President Truman a bum. He referred to the American Legion as Nazi Gestapo agents-he also said the fifteenth Ward was run by corrupt politicians and that horse rooms were operating.'" He also appealed to the Negroes to rise up and fight for equal rights. The police were called but at first merely observed the gathering. Angry mutterings were heard as the crowd became divided in its sentiments toward the speaker. Pedestrians were unable to pass without going out into the street. Finally, after the police gave defendant several ineffective warnings to stop talking, he was arrested and convicted of disorderly conduct in violation of a state statute, over his objection that his freedom of speech had been unconstitutionally denied. On appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, held, affirmed. The constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech does not make this right absolute. Conviction for disorderly conduct does not infringe upon this right where the speaker on a public street encourages his audience to become divided into hostile camps, interferes with traffic, and deliberately agitates and goads the crowd and police officers into action. People v. Feiner, 300 N.Y. 391, 91 N.E. (2d) 316 (1950).
Alan C. Boyd S. Ed.,
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FREEDOM OF SPEECH,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol49/iss6/9