Street v. New York

Facts of the Case

Street, having heard a news broadcast of the shooting of James Meredith, a civil rights leader, took an American flag, which he owned, to a street corner near his home in New York and ignited the flag. He was arrested and thereafter charged by information with malicious mischief for violating § 1425, subd. 16, par. d, of the New York Penal Law, which makes it a crime publicly to mutilate or publicly [to] defy . . . or cast contempt upon [any American flag] either by words or act. The information charged Street with burning the American flag and publicly speaking defiant or contemptuous words about the flag. Street unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the information on the ground that the statute violated his constitutional right to free expression by punishing him for activity which he contended was a constitutionally protected demonstration or protest. Street was tried before a judge without a jury and convicted. The arresting officer testified that at the time of arrest Street was standing on a corner speaking to a small and not unruly group, which did not block the street or sidewalk