Heckler's Veto Analysis

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To begin, it is important to understand the history and jurisprudence behind what led the Court to establish protections for controversial speech: the heckler’s veto. The heckler’s veto is defined by the Court as a situation in which a crowd disagrees with a speaker at an event and drowns the speaker’s message by disrupting the event. There are three elements that make up a situation leading to the heckler’s veto. The first one is a potential or actual speaker, second, an audience part of which is somehow hostile to the speaker of the speech, and lastly, some actual or potential police or other security presence. In other words, the heckler’s veto is “the suppression of speech by the government because of the possibility of violent reaction…show more content…
Louisiana is another case that helped establish the theory of the heckler’s veto. This case arises from a group of students from a black college who were protesting a segregated restaurant in 1961. They were arrested, and the following day a local pastor, Elton Cox, gathered around two thousand protesters who went down to the police station where the students were being held. After giving a message, the crowd started singing and the student started singing back to the crowd. The police grew concerned and ordered the crowd to disperse. After failed attempts the police used tear gas on the crowd. The following day Cox was arrested and charged with three counts, one of them breach of the peace. The Court determined that the only charge that did not stand was breach of the…show more content…
South Carolina. In this case one hundred and eighty-seven high school and college black students who peacefully assembled at the Zion Baptist Church in South Carolina. The students then march to the South Carolina State House to protest for their civil rights. Although the students did not engage in any violence they were asked by the police to disperse or be arrested. The crowd did not comply and the students were arrested. The Court held that in arresting and convicting the students, South Carolina infringed upon the student’s freedom of speech and freedom of assembly rights. The above cases have helped create the theory and jurisprudence of the heckler’s veto. Through these cases, the Court that unpopular messages and speakers are protected under the First Amendment. Also, it is important to note that although their message is offensive to some groups, people who agree with their message have First Amendment rights to listen. With the exception of the Feiner case, the Court consistently sided with the groups and speakers with the unpopular messages. However, speakers and protesters have a responsibility to each other, and the state has Constitutional authority to punish
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