1948 July 22

NYC Seeking New Rules to Govern Use of Sound Trucks, Loudspeakers

 

The legal department of the New York City Police Department, it was announced on this day, is seeking to draft a new set of rules to govern the use of sound trucks and loud speakers in public meetings. The move was in response to the Supreme Court decision in which Justice William O. Douglas held that leaving the right to hold a public meeting to the discretion of the police or the payment of a fine could interfere with the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

Police officials have expressed fear of having the streets “inundated” with sound trucks and loud speakers.

Hanging over the  controversy was a test case in which Bernard Walpin, a teacher at Hunter College, deliberately spoke for an hour an a half without having obtained a police permit. During his remarks, Walpin read from Justice Douglas’ opinion several times. His case was being supported by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Supreme Court case was Saia v. New York (June 7, 1948), involving a local ordinance that gave the police chief unfettered discretion to issue permits for the use of sound amplification devices in public places. Justice Douglas wrote that the ordinance was unconstitutional because it “establishes a previous restraint on the right of free speech in violation of the First Amendment which is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against State action. To use a loudspeaker or amplifier, one has to get a permit from the Chief of Police. There are no standards prescribed for the exercise of his discretion.”

Learn more about free speech: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/speech

 

 

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