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New York City Considers Seeking Supreme Court Support on Rockwell Ban

June 12, 1961
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The City of New York, over-ruled by the State’s highest tribunal on its refusal to grant a permit for a public rally desired by George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi party, was reviewing the entire case today, to determine whether to take an appeal on the issue to the United States Supreme Court.

The seven-man State Court of Appeals this weekend upheld Rockwell’s right to hold such a meeting in New York City by a unanimous decision. The tribunal affirmed, without a written opinion, a ruling handed down last February by the Appellate Division, which had reversed a decision given in August 1960, by Supreme Court Justice Henry Epstein.

Rockwell had appealed for a permit to hold a rally in Union Square originally on July 4, 1960. Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris denied the permit, and Mayor Robert E. Wagner called Rockwell “a half-penny Hitler,” holding that his preachment of religious and racial hatred would incite to riot and violence.

The New York Civil Liberties Union appealed on Rockwell’s behalf for a court order reversing the decision by Morris and Wagner. Although declaring Rockwell’s views as “hateful,” the CLU insisted that the denial of a permit violates the constitutional guarantee of free speech which, it stated, “applies to all, no matter how obnoxious the person or the ideology he represents.” Justice Epstein upheld the permit denial ordered by the city officials.

While neither Mayor Wagner nor Commissioner Morris would comment today on the Court of Appeals decision, Corporation Counsel Leo Larkin said he would review the case before determining whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

At Rockwell’s headquarters, at Arlington, Va., an associate of the Nazi leader, Dan Burros, said Rockwell would “surely apply for a permit to talk in New York as soon as he is through with his troubles in New Orleans.” Rockwell and 11 of his “storm troopers” were arrested in New Orleans two weeks ago while picketing a theatre where the film “Exodus” was being shown. They were carrying signs deriding Jews and Negroes. They are scheduled to be tried in New Orleans tomorrow.

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