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Skokie Vs. Nspa

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The Village of Skokie v. National Socialist Party of America

The National Socialist Party, a Nazi group lead by Frank Collin, proposed a march, in full uniform, to be held on May 1, 1977 through the Village of Skokie near Chicago, Illinois. Skokie was the home of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors. Shocked by the announcement, the survivors rose in protest against the march (Downs book cover flap). The controversial march that was planned to take place right in the middle of town would clearly have caused problems. If trouble was pretty much guaranteed in Skokie on the day of the march, then should the US Supreme Court have let the Nazis keep their plan to march through Skokie? The proposed Nazi march in the Village of Skokie tested the rights that are included in the First Amendment.

The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Essentially, the First Amendment is supposed to give citizens the right to have free speech, free choice of religion, and the right to assemble peaceably. There are limitations to the First Amendment because every person interprets the rights differently. The Nazis most likely assumed that it was all right to hate people and say it in public, but the Jewish people disagreed, believing that hatred is unacceptable. Where is the line drawn when it comes to people being able to speak their minds? Justice Murphy, a member of the Supreme Court in 1942, had a say on what is considered allowable under the First Amendment and what crosses the line, and he stated,

There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or "fighting" words - those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace (Downs 7).

The Jewish people that lived in Skokie believed that this planned rally was extremely disrespectful and unlawful. The many Holocaust survivors and Jews that lived in Skokie were offended by anyone that wore a swastika. They remembered all of the unexplainable horrible times that many of them had endured when Hitler was ruling Germany. Holocaust survivors told the Skokie Village Board,

We expect to show up in front of the Village Hall and tear these people up if necessary...we never thought in our wildest dreams that it could happen like that again, that whey would have a right to confront say those obscene words without being punished. This realization brought back a we are again, in the same position... (Downs 1).

The debate was whether the Nazis had rights. The Jews felt that the Nazi march inflicted mental trauma, triggering painful memories (Downs 93). The Skokie Jews felt that the Nazis should not be protected by the First Amendment and stated, "Defenders of free speech who retain their good sense will realize the Nazis, saying what they say in the way they say it, do exceed reasonable limits" (Bartlett 139).

The Jewish citizens of Skokie had strong feelings on why the Nazi gang should be prohibited to come anywhere near their town in uniform and with swastikas. In their opinion, the entire idea of the Nazi's march, which symbolized hatred and murder of millions of Jews, had crossed the line of the First Amendment. The Jews believed that this event would not be a peaceful assembly, and they could not expect Skokie citizens to stay calm with all the past events that they remembered from the horrifying Holocaust.

The National Socialist Party of America had totally different views on its proposed march. The members followed after Hitler and had the same ideas as he did for "white power." Frank Collin, the leader of the Nazi group stated, "I used it [the First Amendment] at Skokie. I planned the reaction of the Jews. They are hysterical" (2). He didn't understand that what he was doing was immoral and that by being a Nazi supporter he was involved in one of the largest massacres in history, the Holocaust.

The Nazis had completely opposite opinions on the First Amendment and the march they


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