Walker v. City Of Birmingham

388 U.S. 307 (1967)


Officials of Birmingham (P) filed a bill of complaint asking for injunctive relief against individuals and two organizations, Walker (Ds). During the preceding seven days Ds had staged a number of 'sit-in' demonstrations, 'kneel-in' demonstrations, and mass street parades. P alleged that this conduct was 'calculated to provoke breaches of the peace,' 'threatened the safety, peace, and tranquility of the City,' and placed 'an undue burden and strain upon the manpower of the Police Department.' P alleged that these infractions of the law were expected to continue, and would 'lead to further imminent danger to the lives, safety, peace, tranquility and general welfare of the people of the City of Birmingham,' and that the 'remedy by law was inadequate.' The judge granted a temporary injunction enjoining Ds from, participating in or encouraging mass street parades or mass processions without a permit as required by a P ordinance. Ds declared their intention to disobey the injunction because it was 'raw tyranny under the guise of maintaining law and order.' The next day a large crowd gathered, and a group of about 50 or 60 proceeded to parade along the sidewalk while a crowd of 1,000 to 1,500 onlookers stood by, 'clapping, and hollering, and whooping.' The day after, a crowd of between 1,500 and 2,000 people congregated and a group of about 50, headed by three Ds, started down the sidewalk two abreast. Violence occurred. Members of the crowd threw rocks that injured a newspaperman and damaged a police motorcycle. P requested an order to show cause why the petitioners should not be held in contempt for violating the injunction. Ds attacked the constitutionality of the injunction on the ground that it was vague and overbroad and restrained free speech. They also sought to attack the Birmingham parade ordinance upon similar grounds, and that it had been administered in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. The judge refused to consider any of these contentions as there had been neither a motion to dissolve the injunction nor an effort to comply with it by applying for a permit from the city commission before engaging in the Good Friday and Easter Sunday parades. Ds were convicted of criminal contempt and given five days in jail and a $50 fine. The State Court upheld the judgment. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.