Charles Brandenburg was the Ohio leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Brandenburg held a gathering for the members of the KKK.. Brandenburg also invited the Cincinnati television crew to film his gathering. Although twelve members showed up, it did not stop Brandenburg from continuing. During this gathering, Brandenburg had said that “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengance taken.” He also said, “I believe the nigger should be returned to Africa, the Jew returned to Israel.” Due to Brandenburg’s harsh, what could be taken as, threat, Ohio authorities prosecuted Brandenburg under a 1919 criminal law making it illegal to “advocate...the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism.” Also, they prosecuted him for voluntarily assembling with any such group to promote such aims. Ohio authorities pressed the issue of “clear and present danger.” The Court’s opinion was unanimous and reversed the conviction. They believed that the government cannot constitutionally punish abstract advocacy of force or law violation. Justice Black and Douglas both concurred.
As much as I hate to agree with the courts decision, I have to be fair. Brandenburg had broadly made a statement that they would take action if the government does not. To many of us, it does seem like a threat that he is going to do something, and we all know what the Ku Klux Klan has done. However, Brandenburg was clearly expressing his right given to him by the First Amendment. That right he chose to express was clearly his right to freedom of speech. With regards to clear and present danger, we have to think of the time in which this happened. If we knew then what we do now, Brandenburg would have rotted in jail. It was unclear that anything was going to happen at the time, and it did not present any real danger because...
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