Gregory v. City of Chicago

RESPONDENT: City of Chicago
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Somerset County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 394 US 111 (1969)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 10, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Gregory v. City of Chicago

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 1968 in Gregory v. City of Chicago

Earl Warren:

Number 60, Dick Gregory et al., petitioners versus City of Chicago.

Mr. Patner.

Marshall Patner:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a case where the failure to arrest hecklers resulted in suppression of free speech where demonstrators were peaceful and where the hecklers threatened and attacked them for there mere presence on the streets.

Now, the defendant in between 65 and 70 or 80 other people in August of 1965, conducted a protest march and did so by beginning in Chicago's Lakefront at Buckingham Fountain then went to the City Hall, paraded there and then marched to the area in which the Mayor of the City of Chicago lives called Bridgeport, some five or eight miles from the loop, the downtown area.

When they arrived, there were approximately 35 people in the neighborhood on the street.

They marched silently in the evening but when they first arrived, they sang some songs, they chanted, made several kinds of remarks.

They were permitted from the time they started at Buckingham Fountain to City Hall, to the mayor's community to march and proceed with the same kinds of remarks, the same kinds of singing and chanting under the eyes of the local police and the accompaniment of a corporation counsel or a city attorney.

After they had marched for sometime in the Bridgeport community, at a request of a police commander on the scene, Dick Gregory who took charge of this march and this group, agreed with the request of the commander that after 8:20 p.m., there would be no singing and no chanting.

And after that time, there was no conversation whatsoever by the marchers directed toward the spectators.

The only sound whatsoever made except for walking was communication by Gregory to the people, telling them that he was marching with them, telling them to stay in line to obey the police suggestion of where they should march and they did so.

They stayed on the public sidewalks, except when interrupted by local people who put hoses in their way.

Those were removed at police direction.

They did so and stop when one heckler stood in their way and the policeman asked him to get out of the way and he did so and then they proceeded.

When a countermarch started in order not to join it, they changed direction for a block or so and then resume the same direction.

Now, while they're conduct continued to be peaceful, the crowd began to gather and a crescendo grew in that crowd.

Now the hecklers as we call them that the local people who came out were not in anyway captives of these peaceful marchers.

The marchers never made any noise as I said after 8:20.

They never sang or chanted but the people chose from -- to grow and to come out.

The group grew from 35 until ultimately there may have been 1200 or 1400.

The subject to this demonstration involved criticism of the then Superintendent of Schools of the City of Chicago, Benjamin Willis who often have been criticize for his policies and racial problems in the city schools, an issue of public interest.

Now what is missing from the opinion below which affirm the jury conviction of disorderly conduct on two counts are the following.

There was no invective or invitation to violence by the peaceful marchers, sometimes called provocation.

There was no effort by the police to arrest any heckler.

All of the police in this case were awfully good in trying to protect the marchers.

They were very good at that and what's interesting about this case I think a bit unusual in these demonstration of cases.

We have very little dispute with the facts stated by the Illinois Supreme Court, very little at all but we have a better difference with the city who seems to move up some of the chanting that occurred earlier, and so it appeared after 8:20.

It did not occur after 8:20.

The only other factual if I can get rid of that dispute we have in the city.

They say that there was a crack force there of task force that was special, that was specially trained to go out and deal with these kind of things.