1973 August 15

ACLU Backs Klan’s Right to Meet in Public Park


The ACLU affiliate in West Virginia on this day charged that Ku Klux Klan members had been denied their constitutional rights when they were barred from holding a meeting in a public park in Huntington, West Virginia. Klan members sought the ACLU’s assistance when the meeting was banned. Hampshire County Court upheld the action.

The event on this day was one of many in which the ACLU fought for the First Amendment rights of the Klan and other racist groups, honoring the principle of “freedom for the thought we hate.” See, for example, the ACLU’s defense of a pro-German and crypto-Nazie group on November 19, 1938; the ACLU’s defense of the First Amendment right of segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace in New York City on September 30, 1968; the well-known episode in which the ACLU defended the right a a Nazi group to hold a demonstration in the predominantly Jewish community of Skokie, lllinois (October 4, 1976); and an African-American ACLU attorney in Texas who represented a Ku Klus Klan member (September 8, 1993).

Learn more: Gara LaMarche, ed., Speech and Equality: Do We Really Have to Choose? (1996)

Read: Samuel Walker, Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy (1994)

Learn about recent KKK First Amendment cases: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/tag/kkk

Learn more about the Klan today: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/ku-klux-klan

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