394 U.S. 111 (1969), 60, Gregory v. City of Chicago

Docket Nº:No. 60
Citation:394 U.S. 111, 89 S.Ct. 946, 22 L.Ed.2d 134
Party Name:Gregory v. City of Chicago
Case Date:March 10, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court

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394 U.S. 111 (1969)

89 S.Ct. 946, 22 L.Ed.2d 134



City of Chicago

No. 60

United States Supreme Court

March 10, 1969

Argued December 10, 1968



Petitioners, peaceful civil rights demonstrators, were arrested and convicted for disorderly conduct when they failed to disperse on orders of the Chicago police, who anticipated civil disorder because of the bystanders' unruly conduct. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed.


1. Petitioners were denied due process, since there was no evidentiary support for their convictions. Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199. P. 112.

2. The convictions were for demonstrating, not for refusing to obey police orders. P. 112.

3. The trial judge's charge allowed the jury to convict for acts protected by the First Amendment. Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359. P. 113.

39 Ill.2d 47, 233 N.E.2d 422, reversed.

WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a simple case. Petitioners, accompanied by Chicago police and an assistant city attorney, marched in a peaceful and orderly procession from city hall to the mayor's residence to press their claims for desegregation of the public schools. Having promised to cease singing at 8:30 p.m., the marchers did so. Although petitioners and the other demonstrators continued to march in a completely lawful fashion, the onlookers became unruly as the number of bystanders increased.

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Chicago police, to prevent what they regarded as an impending civil disorder, demanded that the demonstrators, upon pain of arrest, disperse. When this command was not obeyed, petitioners were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Petitioners' march, if peaceful and orderly, falls well within the sphere of conduct protected by the First Amendment. See Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, post, p. 147; Brown v. Louisiana, 383 U.S. 131, 141-142 (1966) (prevailing opinion of MR. JUSTICE FORTAS); Henry v. City of Rock Hill, 376 U.S. 776 (1964); Fields v. South Carolina, 375 U.S. 44 (1963), reversing 240 S.C. 366, 126 S.E.2d 6 (1962). There is no evidence in this record that petitioners' conduct was disorderly. Therefore, under the principle first established in Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199 (1960), convictions so totally devoid of evidentiary support violate due process.

The opinion of the Supreme Court of Illinois suggests that petitioners were convicted not for the manner in which they conducted their march, but rather for their refusal to disperse when requested to do so by Chicago police. See 39 Ill.2d 47, 60, 233 N.E.2d 422, 429 (1968). However reasonable the police request may have been, and however laudable the police motives, petitioners were charged and convicted for holding a demonstration, not for a refusal to obey a police officer. * As we said in Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 164 (1961):

[I]t is as much a denial of due process to send an accused to prison following conviction for a charge that was never made as it is to convict him upon a charge for which there is no evidence to support that conviction.

See also In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 273 (1948).

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Finally, since the trial judge's charge permitted the jury to convict for acts clearly entitled to First Amendment protection, Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359 (1931), independently requires reversal of these convictions.

The judgments are


MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, while joining the concurring opinion of MR. JUSTICE BLACK, also joins this opinion.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE WHITE concur in the judgment of the Court and join its opinion insofar as it holds that, under the principle established by Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359, the petitioners' convictions cannot stand.

BLACK, J., concurring

MR. JUSTICE BLACK, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS joins, concurring.

This, I think, is a highly important case which requires more detailed consideration [89 S.Ct. 948] than the Court's opinion gives it. It in a way tests the ability of the United States to keep the promises its Constitution makes to the people of the Nation. Among those promises appearing in the Preamble to the Constitution are the statements that the people of the United States ordained this basic charter

in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity . . . and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. . . .

Shortly after the original Constitution was adopted, again undoubtedly in an attempt to "secure the Blessings of Liberty," the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, in which the First Amendment, later made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that:

Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people

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peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In 1954, our Court held that laws segregating people on the basis of race or color in the public schools unconstitutionally denied Negroes equal protection of the laws.1 Negroes, and many others who sympathized with them, cooperatively undertook to speed up desegregation. These groups adopted plans under which they marched on the streets carrying placards, chanting, and singing songs, all designed to publicize their grievances and to petition the various units of government, state and national, for a redress of these grievances. Their activities along these lines quite obviously aroused highly emotional feelings both on their part and on the part of others who opposed the changes in local laws and customs which the "picketers" and "demonstrators" advocated. Agitation between groups brought about sharp conflicts and clashes, threats, fights, riots, and near-riots. This Court, to be sure, has had its difficulties and sharp differences of opinion in deciding the precise boundaries dividing what is constitutionally permissible and impermissible in this field.2 There have also been sharp disputes over whether the Court can hold laws unconstitutional because the Court deems them to be "unreasonable," "arbitrary," or contrary to fundamental standards of ethics, morals, or conscience.3 Fortunately, however, these differences need not concern us here. For while we have pointed out in many cases that the States and their subordinate units do have constitutional

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power to regulate picketing, demonstrating, and parading by statutes and ordinances narrowly drawn so as not to abridge the rights of speech, press, assembly, or petition, neither Chicago nor Illinois at the time these petitioners were demonstrating had passed any such narrowly drawn laws.4

[89 S.Ct. 949] The facts upon which these arrests and convictions for disorderly conduct occurred were these.

Petitioner Gregory and his group had become dissatisfied because Benjamin Willis, Superintendent of Chicago's public school system, was not moving speedily enough to desegregate the public schools. While Mayor Daley did not appear to have legal authority to remove Dr. Willis,5 the group evidently believed the Mayor could cause him to be removed if he wanted to do so, and their prodding was therefore directed at the Mayor, as well as against Willis. The group march began near the Chicago Loop District at 4:30 p.m. and ended five miles away in the neighborhood of Daley's home. A lieutenant of police, four police sergeants, and about forty

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policemen met Gregory at the gathering place in Grant Park. There Gregory addressed the marchers, saying:

First we will go over to the snake pit [city hall]. When we leave there, we will go out to the snake's house [the mayor's home]. Then, we will continue to go out to Mayor Daley's home until he fires Ben Willis [Superintendent of Schools].

The demonstrators marched to the city hall, and then they marched to the Mayor's home about five miles away, arriving at about 8 p.m. The demonstrators were accompanied by the police and by the Assistant City Attorney from the park to the Mayor's home. When they reached this neighborhood, the demonstrators began marching around and around near the Mayor's home. Meanwhile, the crowd of spectators from the neighborhood kept increasing, and its language and conduct became rougher and tougher. The events leading up to the arrest of the demonstrators are set out in detail in the opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court, and I agree fully with that court's description of these events, which I have reprinted as an appendix to this opinion. This episode finally came to a conclusion at about 9:30 p.m. Fearful that the threatening crowd of onlookers could no longer be contained, the police asked Gregory and his marchers to leave the area. When they refused, they were arrested and charged with violation of Chicago's disorderly conduct ordinance, which provides as follows:

All persons who shall make, aid, countenance, or assist in making any improper noise, riot, disturbance, breach of the peace, or diversion tending to a breach of the peace, within the limits of the city; all persons who shall collect in bodies or crowds for unlawful purposes, or for any purpose, to the annoyance or disturbance of other persons; . . .

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shall be deemed guilty of disorderly conduct, and upon conviction thereof, shall be severally fined not less than one dollar nor more than two hundred dollars for each offense.

Municipal Code of Chicago, § 191.

I agree with the Illinois Supreme Court that the "record shows a determined effort by the police to allow the marchers to peacefully demonstrate and at the same time maintain order." I also think the record shows that, outside of the marching and propagandizing of their views and protests, Gregory and his group, while marching, did all in their power to maintain order. Indeed, in the...

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