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Civil Liberties Union’s Stand on Anti-jewish Propaganda Disputed

February 17, 1960
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Differing with the American Civil Liberties Union, a public position was taken here today by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith that anti-Jewish propaganda distributed by the “American Nazi Party” fomented violent disorder and could not be defended as legitimate “free speech.”

The ADL, in a statement by its counsel, David A. Brody, commented on a current case involving George Lincoln Rockwell’s Nazi group and Irving Berman, a local Jewish communal leader arrested together with a Nazi after a street-corner scuffle. The ACLU had defended the Nazi involved in the scuffle and maintained that Mr. Berman sought to deprive the Nazis of “free speech” rights.

Mr. Brody said: “Epithets or personal abuse may constitutionally be punished as criminal acts because by their very utterance they inflict injury or tend to incite to an immediate breach of the peace. Surely an abusive epithet doesn’t achieve immunity when it is aggravated by being tacked to a ‘political’ program to throw people into gas chambers.”

The ADL stand was that it would be better policy not to prejudge the case before the evidence is heard in court. Mr. Berman, according to the ADL, appeared to have “responded in a whole some and natural way to a deliberate provocation. He appears to have been engaged in a perfectly justified act in stopping a breach of the peace by Rockwell, who was distributing leaflets containing the foulest abuse and exhortations to violence too vicious to repeat here.”

The ADL counsel held that the District of Columbia has disorderly conduct statutes which make criminal many kinds of speech and conduct which may threaten public order, including “insulting” or “rude” words of the kind used in the Nazi propaganda. District of Columbia authorities recently ruled that the Nazi hate material and its distributors should be protected by the police as within the law.

United States attorney for District of Columbia, Oliver Gasch, said today he saw no purpose of “martyrizing” the neo-Nazi forces of George Lincoln Rockwell by prosecuting them under District of Columbia laws.

He meanwhile made known that no assault charges will be placed against two men, arrested for scuffling, over the distribution of anti-Semitic literature although the men still face hearings Thursday on charges of disorderly conduct. He said assault charges would not be added to the disorderly conduct case because there was no evidence either man injured or intended injury to the other.

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