The Village of Skokie v National Socialist Party of America Short Summary

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In Skokie, Illinois, the National Socialist Party, led by Frank Collin, planned to organize a parade on May 1, 1977. This event would feature individuals dressed in full Nazi uniforms. It is important to note that Skokie was home to a large community of Jewish survivors from the Holocaust.

The survivors were surprised and opposed the scheduled controversial march in Skokie because of its potential to cause problems. There is a question about whether or not the US Supreme Court should have permitted the Nazis to proceed with their planned demonstration, considering the anticipated challenges on the day of the event. The planned Nazi protest in Skokie presented a challenge to the rights protected by the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from passing laws that restrict religious establishment, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, peaceful assembly, and petitioning for government redress of grievances.

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The First Amendment of the United States Constitution bestows certain rights upon citizens, including freedom of speech, freedom to practice religion of choice, and the right to peacefully assemble. Nevertheless, these rights have different limitations depending on the individual. The Nazis believed it was permissible to publicly express their hatred, whereas the Jewish people deemed such animosity intolerable. This prompts contemplation about where to establish boundaries for open expression of ideas. In 1942, Supreme Court Justice Murphy conveyed his viewpoint on what falls within the bounds of acceptability under the First Amendment and what exceeds acceptable limits. He asserted that there exist specific forms of speech with well-defined constraints; consequently, preventing and penalizing them has never been regarded as a constitutional matter.

According to Downs (7), the types of speech that are prohibited include lewd and obscene content, profanity, libelous statements, and insulting or provocative words that can cause immediate harm or incite violence. The Jewish community in Skokie viewed the planned rally as both highly disrespectful and unlawful. The sight of people wearing swastikas greatly offended the many Holocaust survivors and Jewish residents in Skokie, serving as a painful reminder of the unimaginable horrors they experienced during Hitler’s reign in Germany.

Holocaust survivors voiced their concern during a meeting with the Skokie Village Board. They stated that they were ready to gather in front of the Village Hall and confront these individuals forcefully if necessary. The survivors expressed disbelief at the possibility of a situation like this happening again, where these individuals have the right to confront them.

Discovering that he could utter those vulgar words without experiencing any consequences reawakened a sense of fear.

Once again, we are facing the same situation.

. According to Downs (1), there was a debate concerning the rights of the Nazis. The Jewish population believed that the Nazi march caused them mental distress, reminding them of distressing experiences (Downs 93).

The Skokie Jewish community believed that the Nazis should not be protected by the First Amendment. They argued that the Nazis had gone beyond reasonable limits with their speech and actions, stating “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 Jews strongly opposed the idea of the Nazi gang coming to their town in uniform with swastikas, as it represented the hatred and murder of millions of Jews. They believed that this would not be a peaceful assembly and that Skokie residents could not be expected to remain calm considering the past horrors of the Holocaust.

The National Socialist Party of America had a contrasting perspective regarding their planned march. The party’s members aligned themselves with Hitler and shared his belief in “white power.” Frank Collin, the leader of the Nazi group, expressed how he made use of the First Amendment during the Skokie incident and deliberately anticipated the response from the Jewish community.

“They are hysterical” (2). The person did not understand the immorality of their actions and that by supporting the Nazis, they were essentially participating in one of history’s largest genocides – the Holocaust. The Nazis had completely different views on the First Amendment and the planned march. David Goldberg, the lawyer representing the Nazis, argued in court, “Your Honor, if this Court issues a preliminary injunction in the case, enjoining Mr.’s demonstration.

Collin and the National Socialist Party of America express concern that the Village’s refusal to permit their march in Skokie would disregard First Amendment principles. The party argues that their right to free speech and freedom of assembly under the First Amendment justifies their intention to march. A question arises regarding why it is significant for them to parade in uniform and exhibit swastikas in a town with a substantial Jewish community. A Nazi member states that they derive satisfaction from instilling fear and provoking disorder among Jews.

There have been numerous instances in this country where protests have escalated into riots. The Nazis are fully aware of the immense distress their symbols cause to their intended targets; they deliberately provoke such reactions…

Despite their beliefs, they will be held accountable for intentionally engaging in behavior meant to provoke anger and incite a major disruption of public harmony (Bartlett 142). They firmly believed that publicly exhibiting their hatred was acceptable for everyone to witness. However, after Collin announced the march date, the Skokie Jewish community obtained a legal order prohibiting the Nazis from showcasing their uniforms or swastikas, or distributing literature promoting hate. The Nazis were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who tried to seek a suspension of the injunction from the Illinois Supreme Court, but the Court declined to hear the case.

The ACLU took the case to the US Supreme Court, prompting a reaction from the Illinois court (Bartlett 137). The ACLU argued that it was freedom of speech, not Nazism, that was being questioned. In January 1978, the restraining order imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court was declared invalid. As a result, the Skokie Village Council implemented three new ordinances prohibiting Nazi demonstrations.

Three ordinances were implemented, each with different provisions. The first ordinance made it compulsory to obtain a permit for conducting demonstrations. The second ordinance prohibited political organizations from participating in demonstrations while wearing military-style uniforms. The third ordinance banned the display of symbols that were considered offensive to the community (Bartlett 138). After much discussion, these ordinances were ultimately deemed unconstitutional.

Skokie appealed the case and it reached the US Supreme Court. The highest court upheld that the bans were unconstitutional, standing behind the First Amendment. Consequently, the Nazis gained the right to march and achieved their objective. Although Collin had set a new date, June 25, 1978 for the march in Skokie, it did not take place there. Instead, the Nazis marched in another location in Chicago during July.

After gaining attention for a span of sixteen months, they urged the court system to thoroughly examine the First Amendment.

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The Village of Skokie v National Socialist Party of America Short Summary. (2018, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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