On February 7, 1946, Arthur Terminiello delivered a controversial speech at a Christian Veterans of America meeting. In response to the views he expressed, protesters threw rocks, stones, and bricks that broke windows and doors. The police were unable to effectively contain the situation. Terminiello was tried and convicted of violating a Chicago ordinance that prohibited “breach of the peace”. He appealed his conviction arguing that his First Amendment rights were violated.
On May 16, 1949, the United States Supreme Court agreed with him and overturned his conviction. Justice Douglas wrote— “a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute [citation omitted] is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance or unrest. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.”