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EDWARDS V. SOUTH CAROLINA, 372 U. S. 229 (1963)

U.S. Supreme Court

Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1963)

Edwards v. South Carolina

No. 86

Argued December 13, 1962

Decided February 25, 1963

372 U.S. 229


Feeling aggrieved by laws of South Carolina which allegedly "prohibited Negro privileges," petitioners, 187 Negro high school and college students, peacefully assembled at the site of the State Government and there peacefully expressed their grievances "to the citizens of South Carolina, along with the Legislative Bodies of South Carolina." When told by police officials that they must disperse within 15 minutes on pain of arrest, they failed to do so, and sang patriotic and religious songs after one of their leaders had delivered a "religious harangue." There was no violence or threat of violence on their part or on the part of any member of the crowd watching them, but petitioners were arrested and convicted of the common law crime of breach of the peace, which the State Supreme Court said "is not susceptible of exact definition."

Held: In arresting, convicting and punishing petitioners under the circumstances disclosed by this record, South Carolina infringed their rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom to petition for a redress of grievances -- rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by the States. Pp. 229-238.

239 S.C. 339, 123 S.E.2d 247, reversed.

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