LOS ANGELES (Jan. 15)
Officials of the American Civil Liberties Union asserted today that their efforts to obtain a new trial for five American Nazi party members, convicted on charges of conspiracy and assault, concerned only the issue of freedom of speech.
The officials made the comment in seeking to correct what they termed erroneous press reporting of the ACLU intervention in the case. The five Nazis were arrested when they created a scene at an Israel Independence Day rally here. The officials specifically denied a report that ACLU attorneys, in asking for a new trial, contended that the Nazis had the right to “agitate and provoke” a crowd attending the Shrine Auditorium rally.
“The facts of the matter are that the ACLU took no position on the guilt or innocence of the defendants in filing a brief protesting the constitutionality of Judge Herbert Walker’s instructions to the jury,” the officials said. They added that the instructions included the statement that disturbance of the peace included “the offense of disturbing public peace or tranquility by any act or conduct inciting to violence or tending to provoke or incite others to break the peace” or “by any act likely to produce violence.”
The ACLU officials said that if the Nazis could be convicted under such instructions to a jury than “the rights of any person or group to engage in peaceful demonstrations would be jeopardized. This could include civil rights demonstrators, union pickets and all political or religious speakers.”
The ACLU attorneys contended that the instructions failed to advise the jury that the defendants could be convicted only for illegal acts and not because their speech aroused antagonism in others who resort to violence as a result.”