Street v. N.Y.: Brooklyn Bus Driver Burns Flag After Attempted Murder of Civil Rights Activist

Street v. N.Y.: Brooklyn Bus Driver Burns Flag After Attempted Murder of Civil Rights Activist

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Argued: Street v New York — Sidney Street, a Brooklyn bus driver, burned a flag after hearing of the attempted murder of civil rights activist James Meredith. Street is charged under a New York law which bans "words" that "publicly defy" or "cast contempt" on the American flag. His conviction was upheld both by the intermediate appellate court and by the New York Court of Appeals, but the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the law as unconstitutional.

The official charges for Sidney Street state:

"The crime of Malicious Mischief in that [he] did willfully and unlawfully defile, cast contempt upon and burn an American Flag, in violation of 1425-16-D of the Penal Law, under the following circumstances:...[he] did willfully and unlawfully set fire to an American Flag and shout, "If they did that to Meredith, We don't need an American Flag.""

According to the Supreme Court, the state had no good reasons to convict Sydney Street of a crime after he burned an American flag. Justice Harlan says that the state cannot suppress speech to protect "the sensibilities of passers-by who might be shocked by appellant's words about the American flag" or to force Street "regardless of the impact of his words upon others, [to show] proper respect for our national emblem."

Read More: Street v New York


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